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What is the worst wedding reception dinner you've ever had?

I've had some pretty bad stuff at receptions, and I've had some good stuff, too. But tell us about the worst meal you've ever choked down on someone's big day?

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  1. Cash bar with one's choice of three types of Hallowe'en bag-size potato chips that kept people "entertained" for the 5 or so hours while the couple took their photos. Then a buffet table of finger sandwiches (egg salad, ham salad, tuna salad, vegetarian), potato salad and coleslaw, with some kind of white cake that I didn't go for.

    For the worst ambiance, there was another event where the bridal party was piped in to the theme from the Godfather because the DJ friend of the bride was told that the groom was Italian and he thought it would be nice. The bride had elected for a nouvelle cuisine dinner and since the groom's invitees were expecting an Italian one, I spent most of my time watching the strangers at my table refuse every single course until the dessert hit, when the lightbulb came on and they realized there would be no other food.

    89 Replies
    1. re: wattacetti

      My father wants us to dance to the theme from the Godfather. I am opposed. I was trying to find another way to use it to make him happy.

      Also I am concerned my guests will expect the whole Italian thing but his family is from Central PA and only half my family is Italian. The best we can do with our venue is an antipasto display at cocktail hour and an Italian cookie tray at dessert. Now after reading this I am having heart palpitations that we will be tacky and also have a bunch of starving Italians who will be looking for pasta and Italian wedding soup etc. :(

      1. re: melpy

        If your Italian relatives have been to a PA wedding before, they probably know they won't be in for a 7 course meal. The half-Italian weddings I've attended in PA have included a small insalata mista, a very small plate of pasta with a very plain tomato sauce,choice of chicken, beef or veg main plus the cookie tray. At least your relatives can fill up on cookies if they don't get enough to eat!

        After attending close to a dozen Greek and Italian weddings in Montreal and Toronto, which often have an antipasto bar (and sometimes a risotto bar), 5-7 courses, a dessert buffet and a midnight snack, the simplified, relatively light PA version came as a surprise!

        I've learned to be careful not to overindulge when it comes to the PA cookie tray...those cookies can quickly lead to an awful bellyache!

        1. re: prima

          They have never been to any PA wedding and we are doing a CT style cookie tray not a PA one (I wish!). Our venue will serve salad (no Italian options) and the filet and crab cake with roasted potato. Honestly I think my parents are mostly catering to their MD friends rather than either the PA or CT family members. PA would have been chicken or ham with chicken gravy, mashed potatoes, baked corn, macaroni and cheese with chocolate cake with PB icing for dessert. I am ok with this in between compromise.

          1. re: melpy

            I can't see any one complaining about filet and crab cake! The most important thing to remember about wedding planning is you can. Not. Please. Everyone. Go with what makes you and whoever is paying the happiest, that's what matters.

            1. re: melpy

              Your wedding will be great. The Central PA guests will be tickled beyond belief about the filet and probably the crab cake as well. Even my "Dutchy-est" of relatives liked a good crab.

              1. re: cleobeach

                Oh, dear g-d. A sweet young relative around York has opted for an outdoor wedding on an August afternoon . She tells me some friends of theirs who have a Mexican resto are doing the reception food, but it appears it will all be outside. At least I probably won't be faced w/ chicken w/ yellow stuff and as a female the dollar dance will pass me by.

                Here in STL, the wedding receptions still often feature the duck dance and, for certain folks, what's pronounced muskacholly. (That's mostaccioli - but they usually use penne and call it by the old name.)

                1. re: lemons

                  At one time, you were not legally married in St. Louis unless you had "muskacholly"! I have to read this list because someone probably has my wedding as the worst food they've ever had. We were young and the idea was the party and the food a secondary consideration and we were paying for it ourselves. It was catered and just to get a glimpse it did feature muskacholly and ....canned cole slaw. Need I say more? I would be aghast now. Oddly i did have the idea of having sugared real violets on the cake with an antique bride and groom on top. Our whole wedding was a hoot when we look back. Our photog was very tiny so all our picture are looking uo. My mother was so afraid if we had liquor that some of our guest would get out of line. It turned out it was our family that did- my dad's cousin got drunk and lost his teeth in the parking lot. Everybody had a great time though and we are happily married 33 years later.

                  1. re: wekick

                    Now you have to relate the tale of how your drunk cousin lost his teeth in the parking lot!

                    1. re: wekick

                      lemons and wekick - I look forward to the "muskacholly" and am disappointed when it's not there. I went to 2 weddings in STL this summer and one was a solid Southside/Affton couple. nope. nada. I understood why it wasn't at the much smaller hipster one in a loft downtown, but at the banquet hall off Gravois? I really was craving some.

                    2. re: lemons

                      lemons - the duck dance? I remember the old 'Bunny Hop' especially if it was used to form the line for a buffet service. I last saw that in 1975. as a kid I loved it and for the older crowd, it 1. wore out/diverted the kids a bit before eating and 2. was a source of nostalgia for the folks that took the riverboat dance cruises.

                      1. re: hill food

                        Sure, on the Admiral! Duck dance came later, apparently - I returned to St. Louis for good in '72 and it seemed ensconced by then. I think this is why Chuck Edwards has the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill, and wonder if it's r/t Chuck Berry and his trademark bent-knee travelling with his guitar.

                        1. re: lemons

                          oh the Duck Room is most definitely named for Berry, and I knew of his stage move, just never heard of it outside of that context (except on a matrimonial poultry related note: the "Chicken Dance")

              2. re: melpy

                Your father amuses me. If he has his heart set on the song, do it for the dance with father-of-the-bride and tell him you are tellling the guests it is his wish - and then dance and enjoy it. It will make for a funny memory later.

                I am not from PA. Do people expect weddings to serve food from their heritage?

                If something seems tacky that is not directly related to your parents' special requests - just don't do it. Brides have enough to worry about and you should be enjoying the process AND the final product.

                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                  Born and raise PA German chiming in on Sal's question about heritage and wedding food - yes, i would say generations old than me (I am 40yo) do expect to find "their type" of food at a wedding reception whether it is the "Dutch" foods of the farming area or the Italian or Polish foods from the coal regions.

                  The wedding receptions I knew for the first 23 some years of my life were always buffet style in the church basement (for the non-drinking families) or fire hall social rooms (for the beer and whiskey sour families.). Cash bars were the norm and not unexpected even today.

                  Worst wedding food, which is still a PA standard, stuffed chicken breast covered in yellow gravy. At a wedding last summer, it had the added horror if being served half raw.

                  The first wedding Mr. CB attended with me had the "toast" served in those tiny Dixie cups people keep in their bathroom to rinse after tooth brushing. Not champagne but warm sparkling cider. There was booze but only the wedding party was allowed to drink it and drink it they did. The groomsmen got spectacularly drunk while the rest of us resented our Dixie cups.

                    1. re: cleobeach

                      First, just to get it out of the way, there would be a swiftly put together rebellion at any wedding I have ever been to if the bride and groom were enjoying great liquor and the rest were stuck there drinking 2 buck chuck from a dixie cup. Liquor is required if you are going to make people sit thru a wedding and crap food. Pay/ no pay - meh I don't care.

                      OK that out of the way -

                      Thank you for answering the PA heritage food question. I got to wondering what darn heritage is stuck with chicken in yellow gravy... The island of elementary cafeteria I think. So glad we escaped from there! I would love to go to a wedding where they served their foods from their background. So much better than serving food that means nothing except checking the box and getting on with it.

                      I need to go make some friends in PA!

                    2. re: Sal Vanilla

                      I've been attended a lot of family weddings in western PA. Most of the weddings in the 70s, 80s and 90s had Euro comfort foods, served buffet or family style,such as kielbasa, cabbage rolls, chicken schnitzel, etc, often prepared by women's auxiliary groups at church halls. Some of the more recent family weddings I've attended, where the bride and groom are part Italian American, or completely Italian American, have had Italian food. At other recent family weddings, without an Italian connection, the mains have been plainer foods like roast beef and grilled chicken breasts, and the cultural background of the family might be found in the appetizer selection or at the cookie table. Had some great baklava at a recent Pittsburgh cookie table!

                      1. re: prima

                        PA is a darned ambrosial melting pot.

                        Chicken schnitzel? Is that breaded friend chicken cutlet or something else entirely?

                        There are still women's auxiliary groups and the cook for weddings? I am so intrigued by these things. I love that.

                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                          The ladies aux also prepares food for funerals. It seems like I spent my entire childhood in the church basement, surrounded by the L.C.W.

                          We attended a Mennonite wedding a few years go. In that church, the young friends of the bride and groom take care of the food and serving (family style).

                          1. re: cleobeach

                            Seems to me that is the way to have a wedding. Friends coming and participating and celebrating.

                          2. re: Sal Vanilla

                            Yep, breaded chicken cutlet. Chicken parm at most of the PA Italian weddings.

                            I much prefer the homestyle comfort food approach. One memorable wedding I attended in California was Greek/Mexican. The families on both sides provided all the food.

                            At a recent wedding I attended in Boston, the Cdn bride had the caterer make perogies as an appetizer, as a nod to her grandmother who was from the Prairies. Turns out the caterer used his own family's recipe, which was even better tasting than my family's recipe. :-)

                          3. re: prima

                            We are attending a wedding next month in Bethlehem PA (is that Allentown area?) I will be sure to report back on the menu and drinking.

                              1. re: cleobeach

                                I've been to dozens of PA weddings, but I've only seen the dollar dance in upstate NY!

                                1. re: prima

                                  I saw a dollar dance at just one wedding, in Towson, MD. My cousin, the bride’s mother, was having kittens she was so angry with her daughter for doing it.

                                  1. re: prima

                                    We saw it!! At a different wedding than I originally posted about. In the Pittsburg area. About 1 hr out. I had no idea what the hell it was and neither The Husband. He went with it. I was like, really?? Can we leave now?? Bad enough I spent the whole weekend alone ( including where I was seated) b/c he was in the wedding party and I wasn't. I drove to the ceremony and reception alone. I went to everything alone. Sat alone. super!

                                  2. re: cleobeach

                                    Stuffed chicken in yellow gravy and dollar dances. Oh, yes - I remember that from several weddings I attended while living in central PA (Lewisburg & Montoursville). The chicken was bleah, and the dollar dance was a WTF moment.

                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                      OK now I have to go look up dollar dance. I am sure what is in my mind is not what it is. I have an unhealthy imagination.

                                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                        A dollar dance is sort of what you are imaging Sal, paying money to get close to a lady!

                                        I don't know the exact origins of the dollar dance but they are common in my area of PA. It is a time during the wedding where people pay money (a dollar or more) in return for a shot of liquor or a pack of gum and a chance to dance with the bride or groom.

                                        Supporters of the dollar dance will say it is a way for the bride and groom to talk to everyone one on one.

                                        Detractors of the dollar dance view it as a money grab.

                                          1. re: cleobeach

                                            cleo - you got lucky, the time I saw it (and participated) there was no shot, no dance, no chat, we were just invited to pin dollars to the dress. never got a thank you note for the proper wedding gift that I couldn't really afford (and I am VERY slack about the better late than never rule on those) the bride was from a proper Southern US family, groom was a very enterprising young man from the Balkans. both good people really. the marriage didn't last.

                                            1. re: hill food

                                              I have heard of the pinning money on the dress thing in my area but haven't actually seen it. Is it a Eastern European tradition?

                                              1. re: cleobeach

                                                I assume it was part of his family's tradition (Serbian I think)

                                            2. re: cleobeach

                                              I have seen a variant where the money is stuffed down the bosom of the bride by the man dancing with her. Are all dollar dances like that?

                                              1. re: Querencia

                                                Not the dollar dances I see. The bridesmaids collect the money. I have seen elaborate, handmade aprons, satin bags as well as plain baskets.

                                                But occasionally, like at my wedding, some men of a certain age may lose their manners and go for the bodice.

                                                1. re: cleobeach

                                                  We are talking about food...not money or gifts...right?

                                          2. re: LindaWhit

                                            That's where I'm going for the wedding in June, to Chambersburg, PA. It's where the groom is from, so I don't know how many official PA wedding customs will be upheld.

                                            I don't know if the chicken will be served in yellow gravy or not. I ordered ratatouille in phyllo, in any case.

                                            1. re: Jay F

                                              Ratatouille in phyllo? I can't imagine what the guests at the weddings I attended in the mid-80s would have thought at that entree offering. Mostly, I suspect, it would be "where's the meat?"

                                              I think you've made a wise choice, Jay F. :-)

                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                My father's family is from that part of Pennsylvania. All the weddings I've been to in the area have been standard WASPy weddings or plain weddings serving traditional PA Dutch fare. Nothing unusual, but you'll probably get the chicken in yellow gravy either way.

                                                It will really come down to how working class the groom's family is, I suppose, before you start seeing dollar dances.

                                                1. re: Jay F

                                                  Haha! I bet there will be yellow gravy. My fiancé works in C-burg. We had one rule when we agreed to the PA wedding, no farther west than Carlisle (where we live). Ours is in Harrisburg.

                                                  1. re: melpy

                                                    Where in town are you doing it, melpy?

                                                    1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                      Milestone on the River, they use JDK catering exclusively.

                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                        Cool- I'd not seen this place before. Well, I know there are a few months, but I'd love to hear about it afterward! And congratulations!

                                                        1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                          They have just teamed up with JDK and had only done a few events previously. The newest owners were mostly renovating last year I believe.

                                                2. re: LindaWhit

                                                  The first and only time I saw the dollar dance, I couldn't believe they'd be asking for money, having the MOH standing on the dance floor, collecting the money in a pillow case, when we had already made out a cheque as a gift, and driven about 8 hours out of our way to share their special day. I didn't realize it was a regional thing until this thread. I had thought it was a cheesy tradition from the bride's side. Lol.

                                                  There are some other money dances out there, too. Traditionally, at Cypriot weddings, money gets pinned to the bride's dress. Pretty sure there's also a Ukrainian money dance, too.

                                                3. re: cleobeach

                                                  Our niece got married last year on a shoestring budget. We provided the entree for 200 guests at the reception. Individually made shepherd's pies, potato wedges and salad. Other family members provided other elements of the meal. The bride's dad could have easily afforded to pay for the food and more but he was still bitter over his divorce from the MOB so only paid for the rental of the facility and the dress, knowing we would all pitch in to make it wonderful. Needless to say, when he started the dollar dance for both bride and groom and went around pressuring people to "dig deep " a few of us weren't so amused.

                                                  1. re: cleobeach

                                                    ah, the dollar dance! My sister and BIL had one - he's got this HUGE Italian Polish family so it was a "MUST" and a huge success. and the food was terrific - a local italian joint that did a lot of weddings in those days.

                                                    my former best friend and her hubby heard about the dollar dance and decided to try it - they wanted the $$$ - unfortunately, not a tradition in their families so it was a huge flop. my hubby paid $5 to dance with the groom. LOL. that wedding also had bad food and an alcohol-related rage incident.

                                                    1. re: jujuthomas

                                                      ah, the dollar dance! My sister and BIL had one - he's got this HUGE Italian Polish family so it was a "MUST"

                                                      It certainly is a must in the type of family you describe, who, in my opinion, throw the BEST PA weddings, hands down.

                                                      We were at a fantastic Italian wedding 10 years ago and many of the out of town guests (college friends of the couple) were completely perplexed by the concept and did not want to participate. (totally their choice, no pressure was given)

                                                      1. re: jujuthomas

                                                        PLEASE elaborate on the alcohol related rage incident!

                                                        1. re: schrutefarms

                                                          Count me in as interested! There is nothing like weddings (and funerals) to bring out the worst in people. Add booze to the mix and stand back.

                                                          1. re: cleobeach

                                                            I once witnessed a VERY drunken fight between the bride and groom the night before the wedding (in Vegas, natch), complete with red-faced screaming, tears, and near assault. I laid in my hotel room comfortably watching a movie the next morning, waiting for a call that the wedding was off. It wasn't, and 13 years later, they're still married. Go figure.

                                                            1. re: schrutefarms

                                                              I watched the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom get into a fist fight on the wedding day! That was awkward.

                                                                1. re: wattacetti

                                                                  Sadly, it was years before video came on the scene- mid-1970s.

                                                            2. re: cleobeach

                                                              so it all started the night before with an open bar rehearsal dinner, to which EVERYONE invited to the wedding was invited. This included the groom's paramedic friends - who were a hard partying bunch. The bride was a partying kind of girl, and continued to drink with several of the wedding party and their friends long into the night.
                                                              the bride sobered up (finally) at the back of the church that afternoon as the wedding march started and wove her way down the aisle to marry her equally hungover man. Cut to the reception where the father of the bride found out her pre-wedding condition and TOTALLY lost it - in the direction of 2-3 of the paramedic friends. He blamed them for his daughter's condition - because he just couldn't imagine that she would get drunk on purpose. He kicked them out of the reception... which p*ssed of most of the young people in the room, and all the rest of the paramedic friends, including the groom, who had to be retrieved from the secondary party they started up in the hotel bar.

                                                              as far as I know, they are still married, it's been about 18 years since this incident. We lost touch - there were a lot of reasons, but it's hard to respect folks who can't take responsibility for their own actions.

                                                              1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                Your story quickly reminds me of countless bachelor/bachelorette parties back in the day of over indulgence when the timing of such parties were scheduled way too close to the day of the wedding. Bruises and scabs still healing, hurt feelings still fresh and some couples even deciding NOT to marry.

                                                                With all the commentary we've enjoyed on cash bars and guests needing to drink @ weddings...you have to also wonder why some brides & grooms need to get lit before and after the I do's....

                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                  <you have to also wonder why some brides & grooms need to get lit before and after the I do's>

                                                                  I dunno... nerves? Immaturity? maybe both? DH and I waited a few years before we got married - we were both 30 by the time we got it done. We had fun the night before, had fun the night of but were not in terrible condition. We were also not nervous, because we knew we were ready. This week is our 15 yr anniversary! :)

                                                                  1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                    Congratulations! I wasn't judging as much as balancing out the discussion in that both the host & guest perspective can be appreciated. I've been married to the same guy a long time. In our den of thieves there's 2nd, 3rd marriages common. Lots of widows and widowers living the 2nd chapter with partners as common law. Even been to a few common law "anniversary" parties. So far none of our children have married or have kids of their own. Hill & I look forward to that chapter...but for now-we've enjoyed the heck out of all the celebrations we attend for those we care about.

                                                                    I think celebrations of any kind are a great opportunity to experience joy....laughs....humanity.

                                                                  2. re: HillJ

                                                                    I was just reminded of another (drunken) incident...

                                                                    A girlfriend of mine was marrying her guy of many years, they already had a two year old. They did the justice of the peace with a big party after. Her (wealthy and extremely pompous) brand new hubby (who we already knew had alcohol issues, which later became major drug issues) announced to anyone within earshot "Never get married and never have children!" While his two year old was present. At his wedding reception. Needless to say, that guy turned out to be the biggest D-Bag known to mankind, the marriage unraveled within 2 years, and my (7 months pregnant) friend and their son had to move into her Moms because their house was in his name. Oh, and the wedding credit card was in hers. And she's still paying it off three years later with no help from her now ex-husband.

                                                                    1. re: schrutefarms

                                                                      Oh that's way more than "I was just reminded of another (drunken) incident..." isn't it. A dozen follow up questions just went off in my head...but I wouldn't dare ask.

                                                                      wow :*(

                                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                                        Oh, please, ask away. Wasn't my husband :) The good thing is, my friend was left with two beautiful, healthy kids, and now that she's healing, she's realizing how much better off she is without him.

                                                                        1. re: schrutefarms

                                                                          I'm afraid my questions would be off topic. But hearing you say she realizes how much better off she is today is really all that's important.

                                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                                            Well, to keep it on-topic, I should mention that the venue was a super fancy hotel, the open bars were flowing, and the food was terrific!!

                                                                      2. re: schrutefarms

                                                                        Oh. Terrible.

                                                                        On a much less horrendous level and still within the keeping of food at wedding receptions my husband told me that when his brother was a cook at FatBoys (a BBQ place that I think is out of biz) he catered a wedding (with Fatboys BBQ). Hubs helped him haul the coolers of food to the venue. So they got everything set up and people were milling around waiting for the food when a man stood up on one of the tables to make a toast and with everyone listening his toast was something like "To Tony and his fat girl and the fatboy BBQ! Let's dig in".

                                                                        No punches, just stunned silence and some snickering.

                                                                        The BBQ was pretty good at Fatboys.

                                                                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                          Oh. My. God.

                                                                          At least the BBQ was good!

                                                                    2. re: jujuthomas

                                                                      Ah prewedding condition. 50 years ago words said in hushed tones and with smirkiness about the audacity of wearing white. Now it is drunk brides and fist hurling papas.

                                                                      And the food wasn't even good.

                                                                      Hurumph on the whole thing.

                                                                      I had a slight hangover at my own wedding. I started a loathsome trend I guess. Badgirl trailblazing! I claim it!

                                                                    3. re: cleobeach

                                                                      My gosh truer words have not been spoken!

                                                                  3. re: jujuthomas

                                                                    I sense I would adore your husband and obvs the person who married him.

                                                                    I looked up wedding dollar dances last night. It is done all over the place and yet it has eluded me. Or I it.

                                                                    I would have done it in the version of the bride wearing an apron. I have some lovely ones that I am always trying to show off where there is no red sauce involved.

                                                                  4. re: cleobeach

                                                                    We will NOT be doing a dollar dance. Although my cousin in CT did have one. Both he and the bride danced. Makes me feel a little like an escort.

                                                                    1. re: cleobeach

                                                                      All the Scranton area weddings I've been to had it.

                                                                    2. re: coll

                                                                      My report: No dollar dance. Very classy wedding, ceremony in a cathedral on Lehigh U campus, reception at the groom's grandfather's farm where generations of family have also celebrated the occasion. Normal hor d'oevres including sushi. Hand carved steak and grilled chicken cutlets with some decent sides including asparagus. At least six different cakes for dessert, all on the "gourmet" side. Decent open bar. Worth the drive. Sorry if I disappointed anyone! ;-)

                                                                      1. re: coll

                                                                        A gem like this one can help make up for the other bombs you've attended. :-)

                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                          Yes, I haven't mentioned a couple of them since they were close family members. But that was long ago and far away, I've since recovered.

                                                                          Everyone laughed at me, but after reading these posts before leaving for PA, I packed a tuna fish and an egg salad sandwich, just in case.

                                                                          One other wedding that comes to mind, I don't remember the food exactly but I knew the exact cost. Because our friend, the mother of the bride, called to announce it to me. It was more than the usual spread at the time. I knew she was telling me that was the amount expected as a gift, if not more, but I gave the couple what I could afford and no more. Whatever the usual amount was back in the 1980s. No internet back then, but her thank you card dripped with sarcasm "thank you for your GENEROUS gift". As seems to be the case in this kind of scenario, they divorced three months later.

                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                            Wait. They divorced THREE MONTHS after the wedding? Geezus.

                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                              I know, a world record. They moved into the groom's mothers house, even though she had plenty of money through various trust funds, and they didn't stop fighting for a minute. But I already knew at the wedding, they picked her up on the chair (just looked it up, the Hora chair) and she started screaming bloody murder like a lunatic. High strung doesn't begin to describe it!

                                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                                My friend's brother and his now-ex wife split up two weeks after the (very ostentatious, very expensive) wedding. My friend and I admittedly had placed bets on how long (or short) of a marriage it would be, but neither of us were even close! The would-be wife had never lived away from home in all her 24 years, and decided she'd rather go back to living with her parents because she liked it more. Divorce was granted one year and two weeks after the wedding!

                                                                                1. re: JulesNoctambule

                                                                                  Now that you mention it, our neighbors' daughter growing up applied for a divorce during their honeymoon, less than one week; but he knocked her through a sliding glass door wherever it was they were staying. Oh well.

                                                                                2. re: coll

                                                                                  coll - I always wanted to be part of the chair dance, I've had to skip those weddings due to work/school obligations and have always regretted it.

                                                                                  Lutherans don't seem to do it that I've ever noticed. looks like fun.

                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                    sorry, coll, the chair dance and the Hora are two entirely different dances.

                                                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                      I have no idea, thanks for the info. This is what I saw when I searched for a name http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=t...

                                                                    3. re: melpy

                                                                      Is the menu such that you can have an entree choice to check off on the rsvp card? Choosing between three non-Italian main dishes should be a big hint of what to expect!

                                                                      1. re: meatn3

                                                                        No, everyone gets a dual entree unless I specify vegetarian, double meat or double crab (a few dietary restrictions).

                                                                      2. re: melpy

                                                                        Really? Your father wants to dance to the theme of the Godfather? I'd go with Sal Vanilla's suggestion if he's really set on it.

                                                                        The groom and his family in my anecdote were actually appalled that this DJ thought it was a kind reflection on their heritage.

                                                                        1. re: wattacetti

                                                                          We had actual mob connections and the men are a little obsessed with the whole genre of fiction spawned from it. I am a fan as well but I'm mostly pleased we got out of all that and think of it more as a reminder of how far we have come.

                                                                          1. re: melpy

                                                                            if it's not too late, maybe something nice from Nino Rota (the guy who did a lot of Fellini's music) instead.

                                                                        2. re: melpy

                                                                          From my long-ago DJ days, I remember an album I had to bring to every wedding, and that would be requested more often than you might think: "The Godfather Weding Album", which featured the wedding theme from the movie and 11 other Italian-American romantic classics. If the happy couple didn't find it offensive, I found it perfect for the setting.

                                                                          Also, a reception dinner I expected little from (was I surprised) - Knights of Columbus hall in a downscale neighborhood, ugly cinderblock building, decor from K-Mart ... then the little old Italian ladies brought out the food (like they obviously had done for a hundred other weddings): eggplant parm, lasagne, the expected staples, but every item homemade by grandmas who could cook! Wonderful!

                                                                          1. Ready?? 10 yrs ago, we are invited to a wedding in Philly. It's also the husband's 30th birthday. It's an old friend of the husband's. We make a res for the weekend at the Ritz and upon the weekend, off we go. Being not familiar w/ Philly, we show the address on the invite to the concierge. His face falls. He offers to send us in the hotel car. He says, maybe you don't want to be alone there.
                                                                            We arrive in our own car, which the husband is now skeptical to park b/c perhaps it won't be there when we return. He gives a kid on the street a few bucks to "watch the car". I laugh my ass off. We are dressed as if going to a casual wedding in the NY area. The kid laughs too.
                                                                            We walk into the "hall" for lack of a better word, and must go down a steep flight of dark stairs to a large room where there is a pole in the middle of the dance floor and mirrors on the ceiling. Not kidding.
                                                                            The cocktail hour is a cash bar in a side room off the " pole room". There are plates of cheese and crackers on the bar. It's dim, but we notice things moving on the bar. It's roaches. Awesome. The husband warns me to touch, eat and drink nothing. We brush off as we leave the bar room ASAP.
                                                                            Not sure what to do, as dinner is still not served after 2.5 hours. The wedding party shows up 1 hr late for the reception and completely trashed.
                                                                            The DJ calls tables up for the buffet ( ??!!) finally and we peer into nasty tins on sternos with crusty well-overheated food. We both agree- DO NOT EAT. Tins of Italian "classics" like chicken park, chicken francese, sausage and peppers and some things that one could identify in brown sauce. Meat? I don't know.
                                                                            So we ate nothing...we brushed off as best we could. Gave our lovely gift as the bride came around to "collect".
                                                                            When we got back to the hotel, we undressed in the hall outside our door, took turns passing each other robes and bagging up our clothes in plastic bags to prevent roaches ( or anything else ) from getting into the rest of our stuff.
                                                                            It goes down as the most vile function I have ever been to. EVER.
                                                                            I won't even describe the bathroom sitch to you. Putrid.

                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                            1. re: MRS

                                                                              Awesome story! As a former caterer and wedding planner (very high-end Puget Sound events)... I take a certain, well, glee in these stories:) Sorry :)!

                                                                              1. re: MRS

                                                                                Wow! You win! I don't think I would have been able to stay as long as you did. I would have said, "so sorry, here's our present and best wishes to you, but I'm not well and must leave."

                                                                                What I don't understand is why people who can't afford nice food don't just have an early afternoon wedding and serve cake and punch. It's far better to have a reception like this than to serve inedible food. Presumably, people are there to see the couple get married, not to stuff their faces.

                                                                                1. re: Isolda

                                                                                  Sometimes I wonder if the bad food is more the fault of the caterer. Like.... the food they serve at the tasting is miles ahead of what is actually served at the event itself. They know they can get away with it because the hosts would be between a rock and a hard place.

                                                                                  1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                    This was the case at my sister's wedding, I think - they had a really lovely reception at a nice hotel, and spared no expense on food or drink. The hors d'oeuvres served during the cocktail hour were wonderful, but the dinner itself was mediocre and the cake (provided by the hotel caterer, not a separate bakery) was EXECRABLE. I was surprised, because I knew my sister had done a tasting and was pleased with everything - and cake is probably her favorite food in the world, so I know she would not have settled in that department! I actually asked her about the cake afterwards and she said the cake they had at the tasting was 100 times better, and that the food overall was a lot better as well. Perhaps it's the nature of the beast when you're serving 250 people instead of two.

                                                                                    1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                      When my stepdaughter got married in 2010, the venue we used did a great job with the tasting. They hold tastings several times a year and have 100 people for it, so that a couple can see how the food is done for an event and at the appropriate quantity.

                                                                                      The food at her wedding was very, very good.

                                                                                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                        That's a great way to do it. I love that they produced the food for the tasting en masse so there's no confusion/disapointment. If only other places would adopt that model.

                                                                                      2. re: juliejulez

                                                                                        This happens all the time, unfortunately. I've held many events where the catered food was nothing like what I had sampled at the tasting. The last one, from a major hotel, completely substituted out the dessert we had discussed, without any warning. Instead of berries and a trio of chocolate bites, it was some sort of strange pudding- with one raspberry.

                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                        honestly, I don't want to sound like a snob...but does anyone want to bring roaches from a wedding in their luggage?? Sorry!!

                                                                                    2. I have never had one that was intentionally bad, but we went to a wedding held outdoors in June in S. Florida. Guests enjoyed ample drinks while the wedding party had their photos done and probably other things because they were gone for a long time. So dinner buffet was held and held... by the time they were serving some of the items had spoiled and some were too drunk or starving to notice (or it tasted ok?). Later that night and into the next day (we were all staying at a resort(ish) place) everyone was vying for bathroom space and calling for extra TP.

                                                                                      The bride was pretty pissed. Everyone ruined her wedding.

                                                                                      I did not eat anything noxious because my dress was too tight as is was and I was sweating. Two things I am normally not grateful for.

                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                        <<Two things I am normally not greatful for.>>
                                                                                        Holy cow is that funny.

                                                                                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                          SHE ruined her own wedding with bad planning......

                                                                                          1. re: gingershelley

                                                                                            Yep. No use trying to reason with a pissed bride. Also there is a show on now that apparently gives the green light to brides behaving badly. That cannot be a good augur for a marriage, much less society.

                                                                                            Sometimes people want to plan and control and not let things go with the flow. She is not a go with the flow sorta lady. Hubs is though. Maybe that is a good combo?

                                                                                          2. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                            That's too funny! Most of the weddings I've been to recently had a few snacks to tide people over while the pictures were being taken, then served the main food.

                                                                                            A few years ago, I was asked to put together a cookies and punch buffet for the guests while the wedding pics were being taken, because the caterers weren't set to serve for a couple of hours. I thought it was very weird at first, but it turned out to be a great idea. People shoveled down the sweets and ice cream punch at about 3:30, and remained very happy until the caterers started serving at 5. Of course it was a devout Methodist wedding (no booze except for some very bad champagne, which even I couldn't drink!), so maybe that was why no one got rude.

                                                                                          3. I remember one wedding where the food was so late to arrive, as we all sat around the pretty tables in the Parish Hall of a church, that somebody finally went out and brought back a lot of McDonald's fries and everybody was passing them around for half an hour before the caterer finally showed up with dinner.

                                                                                            1. I've been to some doozies, but the worst dinner...no dinner. Seriously. I think there was chips and salsa. Now that I think about it, that might have been a better dinner than some people have had :)

                                                                                              One thing I truly do not understand is a cash bar at weddings. You are throwing a party and these people are your guests. It's the equivalent of going to an adult cocktail party, only to have the hosts ask you for some money to chip in for the keg. When you're in high school, sure. But beyond that...?
                                                                                              I totally get how pricey weddings are. If you don't have the budget, cut down on the guests. Or go to the courthouse and throw a party. But the fact is all these people just got dressed up, found babysitters, travelled, and bought a gift, all to celebrate you. They shouldn't have to pay for their drinks too!
                                                                                              (BTW cutting the bar off at a certain time is completely understandable, though. After all, some people would drink all night on your dime, no problem. I would.) And also, this is just my personal opinion, obviously everyone has the right to do what they want on their day with their money. I guess I just feel that a wedding is more for the guests than anything-otherwise, wouldn't you just elope?

                                                                                              88 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: schrutefarms

                                                                                                Honest question: would you prefer the hosts not make alcoholic drinks available at all if they can't afford to cover them? So water, soft drinks, coffee, tea, etc. would all be complimentary and there is no option for anything else, even if guests were willing to pay?

                                                                                                1. re: charmedgirl

                                                                                                  I wouldn't have a problem with paying for optional booze, but I think soft drinks should be complimentary.

                                                                                                  Couples could always cut costs by hosting a brunch, or a cocktail party, or a potluck (even with BYOW) instead of offering a dinner reception. I'd rather go to a BYOW potluck than a catered reception with rubber chicken and cash bar.

                                                                                                  1. re: prima

                                                                                                    TG for Prima's comment; please people - if you're planning a wedding (assuming + reception, or post wedding party that is the reception/party - which is mostly what we mean when we say 'wedding') - if you can't afford decent food/drink, etc. then get creative!

                                                                                                    Move your time of day so you don't have to provide a meal.. ask people to bring booze, communicate, collaborate, invent, get cool. Stuffy protocols that you 'have to follow' - and if you do, you can't afford and your reception sucks.... that is what these posts are all about.

                                                                                                    Sorry. There was a phase of my life when bride's asked me for the $$$$$$ reception on the $ budget. So tired of that - even in hindsight.....

                                                                                                    1. re: gingershelley

                                                                                                      Totally agreed. I have written about my wedding reception here a couple times - mostly because it was small, delicious and done by my BIL. We saved a lot of money, had a lovely wedding/reception, went on a great honeymoon and had enough money to downpay on a house and did not go into debt. It is one day. You involve people you love, you don't act like a nutter control freak, you pick and choose things you adore and are meaningful to the couple and things fall into place.

                                                                                                      I'd much rather have a terrific lasagna and an interesting salad - maybe a couple apps while the pics are being taken, a cash bar or a beer.wine.soft drink - and the stress is gone - ish.

                                                                                                      1. re: gingershelley

                                                                                                        I think asking people to bring booze is really shoddy. They're supposed to buy you a gift AND help underwrite the party?

                                                                                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                          Yeah - there's nothing wrong with a dry wedding, or a restricted bar, or just beer and wine, or a set number of drink coupons, or just having a few bottles of wine for toasts on each table. But when you're hosting a wedding, to which people are often spending a lot to attend, *and* are expected to bring a gift, making it BYOB is just as tacky as charging for the food, or springing an unexpected potluck on your guests.

                                                                                                        2. re: gingershelley

                                                                                                          Agreed. We had a cocktail hour wedding reception with heavy hors d'oeuvres, including a panini station. We served champagne and lemonade for the nondrinkers - the champagne felt festive and celebratory, but we got volume discounts on buying cases of champagne, and weren't left with a bunch of half-full bottles of liquor. No seating charts, lots of mingling. Lots of people commented on how nice a wedding it was, and the groom and I even got to bed at a normal hour.

                                                                                                        3. re: prima

                                                                                                          That's what we did. We had to pay ourselves and found a fabulous restaurant where we were able to afford an amazing brunch (think smoked salmon, blintzes, etc in additional to the regular brunch items such as eggs, home fries, sausage, bacon, on and on) for the price we would have paid for a really crappy dinner. We had a mimosa punch, free beer and wine. Cash bar for everything else (except for my mom and dad).

                                                                                                          I also don't understand the whole party favor thing for the most part. Why spend all that money on something that's only going to get thrown away. My mother in law is an amazing baker and offered to make scones as our favors. At least people appreciated the snack afterwards. The only other favors I've liked were lotto tickets.

                                                                                                        4. re: charmedgirl

                                                                                                          In situations like this, knowing in advance of attending a special event would be helpful. Has the coupled arranged for a cash bar, open bar with time limit-then cash bar, no alcohol provided at all, or a range of options in one night is good information for guests.

                                                                                                          It's not knowing or being "stuck" with a bill that's difficult, embarrassing and makes for awkward feelings after the fact. Even if immediate family attending doesn't mind, good friends and +1's might be put off or at worst unprepared to pay for beverages, food, etc depending on the situation.

                                                                                                          I think brides and grooms who "surprise" their guests are thoughtless.

                                                                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                            Also, if a bride and groom have a party list B (dessert only, when party list A gets dinner and dessert), let the guests on party list B know they're only getting dessert. I attended a wedding for a friend from college, and it wasn't clear from the invite that I was only being offered dessert. Thank God I hadn't brought a plus 1 . On the positive side, this wedding invitation had thoughtfully included a plus 1, and I had contemplated bringing a date for a few weeks, but I chickened out, which worked out better in the long run. I was so embarrassed when I figured out what was going on. The MOG said- "Oh, you're the only dessert only guest who came". Then, the groom, my friend, said " I'm so sorry we couldn't include you at the dinner, but we had to limit our number of guests."

                                                                                                            The wedding reception was in Barrie, ON (almost 10 years ago), so what they were saying is that they didn't want to spend $40-50 on my meal (half of what a similar dinner would have cost in a bigger city, and significantly less than the value of my gift).

                                                                                                            What became clear was that the couple had only invited the groom's male friends and their SOs to the dinner. The groom's female friends were only being offered dessert, even though the wedding was 60 miles out of town, and I was the only female friend who had decided to attend. I'm pretty sure it was the bride's idea to place me on the B List because the groom seemed very uncomfortable when he greeted me.

                                                                                                            Lesson learned: Make out the cheque after you've determined whether the bride and groom will be offering you dinner. I had made out my cheque for my standard wedding amount. If I'd known they'd just be offering me dessert, I would've just sent a card and cheque in the mail, rather than getting dressed up and wasting gasoline.

                                                                                                            Etiquette books claim only guests and their SOs need to be included on invites, but it's a nice gesture to singletons to include a plus 1, if a couple can afford it, especially if everyone else at the wedding is arriving in pairs. Offering the +1 doesn't mean that the guest will exercise the option. As a singleton who has attended a couple dozen weddings stag, I think the option of bringing a date is more thoughtful approach. Sucks to be standing on the sidelines at a dance because you weren't invited to bring a date, especially when singles are in the minority at a wedding. I've attended a couple weddings where I was the only single over age 12, and another 2 weddings where there were a couple tables of single female guests, and no single male guests.

                                                                                                            One wedding I attended last year had one single guy (of 2 single guys at a 200 person wedding- the other single guy was seated with his elderly parents) at a table with 9 single women, and he ended up going home with the wedding planner, and stringing one of the single women along for a few weeks after the wedding. This scenario would have been less likely if the single women had been invited to bring plus 1s.

                                                                                                            Also, if you're a couple who is inviting family members to a wedding, and their adult children are also invited, splurge on invitations and stamps, and send the adult children their own individual invitation, rather than including the adult children's names on their parents' invitation.

                                                                                                            1. re: prima

                                                                                                              Wow! That scenario just blew my mind. Separate plans/menus for different people. Holy cow, I can't imagine it.

                                                                                                              Yeah, I'm sticking with the pet peeve of a lack of communication. I can accept just about any scenario (many of which occur last minute or due to unforeseen issues day of) because the traditions of weddings are all over the map today and guests will be asked to be super flexible a good deal of the time. But I'm not cool with a lack of communication. Wedding receptions wind up being a time when all the people in your life merge under one roof. Add in alcohol, weather, and food decisions, and , and, and...the best defense is great communication. Then I'll leave the event very happy for the couple and with a few stories to share.

                                                                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                All sorts of innovative ways to save a buck!

                                                                                                                My friend's mother would describe that couple's approach as basse classe. ;-)

                                                                                                              2. re: prima

                                                                                                                Wow - in WHAT WORLD do people have one menu for a set of people and dessert only for others?

                                                                                                                I have never heard of such a thing here in Seattle.... crazy mean, scary, and in bad taste.

                                                                                                                Also, we don't have any tradition of giving 'check's' as gifts... people here register for gifts and you buy them a thing, unless it is a second marriage/later in life, when sometimes it is emu's pig's goat's you are buying through Heiffer Int'l in their name, or going to REI for the 'outdoors activity gift list' which is cool. Checks? ONLY from family....

                                                                                                                1. re: gingershelley

                                                                                                                  Many couples in the Toronto area (where I live), seem to prefer money or gift cards to gifts. I've even seen some brides request Costco gift cards!

                                                                                                                  One friend's husband expressed disappointment when he and his wife received gifts rather than money from some guests. After watching his reaction, I've tended to give money or money and a small gift.

                                                                                                                  In the Greek Canadian, Italian Canadian and some other cultural communities in Toronto and other parts of Canada, there are often registries for bridal showers that cover the appliances and housewares that would be common at most Canadian bridal registries, so the friends and family contribute money at the wedding, instead. As far as I understand, traditionally at least, the idea is for the wedding money to be used towards a downpayment on a house, rather than paying off credit card debts, etc. :-)

                                                                                                                  1. re: prima

                                                                                                                    My wife and I are Chinese, and traditionally that means money in lieu of gifts from all guests. Most Chinese-Americans (or -Canadians) will set up a registry for the non-Chinese guests as they either don't know or don't feel comfortable giving checks/cash. It's not even a hidden thing - a ornate ballot box is placed at the check-in table for the wedding cards stuffed with checks/cash. Even if you tell your Chinese relatives that you have a registry, it will be completely ignored and cash/checks will be given.

                                                                                                                    Many other Asian weddings I've been to (Vietnamese, Filipino) play lots of games during the reception involving the bride and groom pocketing lots and lots of money, all encouraged loudly by the wedding's MC or MOH. And of course the money dance here and there. This is in addition to the gift money received at the check-in table.

                                                                                                                    I used to run a wedding consulting business, so I've seen it all...some of the ugliest sides of humanity do surface, unfortunately...My most "Jerry! Jerry!" moments tend to surface from the most expensive venues, I'm surprised to find.

                                                                                                                    1. re: HungWeiLo

                                                                                                                      What is a Jerry Jerry moment?

                                                                                                                      How, generally speaking is the food at Chinese weddings? Big shabang or not?

                                                                                                                        1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                                                          Ah I know who that is. I have TV and pop culture gaps. I thought maybe it was Seinfeld. LOL

                                                                                                                        2. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                                          I've been to a lot of Taiwanese weddings, and the food is ample and good. But there are tons of places that do nothing but wedding banquets, and they know what they're doing.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                                            Yeah, Jerry Springer. Lots of bachelor/bachelorette parties gone way way bad...lots of opportunities for conflict now that things are so easily and mistakenly captured on digital media.

                                                                                                                            Chinese weddings traditionally would sit 8-10 guests in a big round table, serving 10-12 courses throughout the evening. Typically, it would be seafood-heavy as it is more likely to be expensive and shows off the wealth of the families being united. Things like lobster, abalone, expensive fish, shark fin soup, Peking duck, etc. are pretty standard (at least for the Cantonese which exemplifies this sort of extravagance in this arena).

                                                                                                                            Vietnamese weddings (and some Chinese ones) like to place a bottle of $$$$ hard liquor in the middle of the table as a show of wealth. This often conflicts with American liquor serving laws and it's quite humorous to see the hosts argue adamantly with the restaurant owners on this point.

                                                                                                                            1. re: HungWeiLo

                                                                                                                              Thank you very much for the description man (I believe) with a name that amuses me.

                                                                                                                              Funny that weddings so often are more about the expression of wealth. Universally.

                                                                                                                            2. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                                              I went to a mixed Chinese ad American wedding on Long Island last year. They did it in a restaurant as it was on the smaller side as Chinese weddings go from my understanding. The food was served family style for hours. Speeches were long and food was still being served at 11 pm. I took notes on what we had:

                                                                                                                              Crab Rangoon, sesame shrimp, beef stick, veggie dumpling,

                                                                                                                              Spicy beef, pickle, noodle, hundred year egg

                                                                                                                              Seafood soup

                                                                                                                              Duck with pancake

                                                                                                                              Mixed veggie-mushroom, diakon, broccoli

                                                                                                                              Poultry with sea chips

                                                                                                                              Orange beef

                                                                                                                              Fried rice

                                                                                                                              Spicy shellfish

                                                                                                                              Sweet pork

                                                                                                                              Fish in a light sauce

                                                                                                                              A few tables of pickier Americans had the more typical Americanized food. I was at the adventurous table. Other guests got up and dance and some missed the best courses. Best food I ever had at a wedding I think. Wished we could have done something more unique for ours.

                                                                                                                              1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                                Interesting. First marriage or beyond?

                                                                                                                                I was wondering later what the celebration might entail (if different) for subsequent marriages. Less elaborate - more subdued? Parents pay or adults are on their own?

                                                                                                                                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                                                  This was a first marriage. I believe the bride's parents paid.

                                                                                                                          2. re: prima

                                                                                                                            At the Indian weddings I have been to, the bride and groom prefer cash. "no boxed gifts" on the invitation is a dead giveaway. Female cousins and sisters of the bride steal the groom's shoes and hold them until they are given money. We had an Indian wedding and reception and a Chinese banquet. The restaurant was incredible and made a seven course vegetarian dinner for my parents and their friends.

                                                                                                                          3. re: gingershelley

                                                                                                                            Money for weddings does seem to be falling by the wayside, now that the internet is here. It used to be gifts at the shower, and money at the wedding. Dad usually played armed guard.

                                                                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                                                                              How interesting - I wonder if this is more of an east coast thing to give money at the wedding?

                                                                                                                              1. re: gingershelley

                                                                                                                                I think it might be. Some friends (Born and raised NYers, Italian and Greek) got married in the west coast (where they were living) and I remember the grooms parents being confused at all the gifts, because they are more used to a bag of checks. Me, I grew up in SoCal, I don't think I've ever given anyone money, except when they've created a "honey fund" (i.e. a Paypal acct where people can donate for their honeymoon, which seems to be becoming more popular). It's always a gift off the registry. Money gifts here, at least from what I've experienced, are more for the parents to give the new couple.

                                                                                                                                1. re: gingershelley

                                                                                                                                  I was just watching a show on Bravo about newlyweds, and a couple on long island, with a greek background, talked about how it's normal to receive lots of money at a wedding, they showed them opening all their envelopes after returning from their honeymoon. So I think it probably depends on the ethnic backgrounds of bride & groom vs location.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                    It is also not uncommon at a Greek wedding to do a "money dance". The newlyweds dance, and guests throw money at them, or onto the floor around them, At the end of the dance , someone sweeps it all up until the next money dance. I was "warned" about it ahead of time, so I was prepared with a number of crisp dollar bills. It did not phase me -- I am used to the old Pennsylvania money dance mentioned upstream.

                                                                                                                                    In PA, it is also not uncommon to give money as a gift. There is usually some sort of fancy big box with a slot in the top (like a mailbox)on a table somewhere at the reception into which you put your card with the money. Some event planners go so far as to have a fancy bird cage, with fake love birds, to hold the loot. Of course there is always the special "purse' that a bride can use to stash those cards as she makes her way from table to table during the reception.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                                                                                      I got to wear a special apron and lace doily type hat for my sister's dollar dance - fortunately for me a couple of his aunts were there to tell me how to run things. It was not a tradition in our family, but BOY did his relatives stuff that apron full!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                                                                                        The 1st wedding I referred to, the bride looked like she was trick or treating with her white bag, Imagine her surprise when we had a sizable box from Tiffany's. She said, " Oh!! I knew that box must be from you guys!! I'm keeping it no matter what!".

                                                                                                                                    2. re: gingershelley

                                                                                                                                      In my area (PA), money is the norm for wedding gifts. Not the rule but more common than gifts.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                                        I would say that's true 80% of the time I've attended a wedding irregardless of where the couple is from. Not all couples go with a registry and not all couples NEED or want "stuff."

                                                                                                                                        The bridal magazine KNOT stated that guests have up to a year to gift a wedding couple. How many people wait that long I wonder?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                          I think another factor is people are generally getting married a little older now than in the past and/or are also living together (or at least on their own) prior to a wedding so they already have "stuff" I know I certainly had more stuff than I needed, which is why I had a very small registry.

                                                                                                                                          As I sit and think about it, I can think of only 4 weddings I attended in the past 20 years where the bride was still under her parents roof at the time of marriage.

                                                                                                                                          We are attending a wedding this summer and I was very surprised to see the couple had registered at three stores. I was surprised because they both owned and lived in their own homes for 20+ years so I assumed they have all their towel, sheets and teapot needs covered.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                                            Cute, maybe they want new stuff! You make an excellent point about other factors.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: gingershelley

                                                                                                                                        It is expected that you give cash or a check here in NJ. Bridal registries are for the bridal shower gifts and $$ is for the wedding. Bringing gifts to the reception just isn't done.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Njchicaa

                                                                                                                                          in the midwest (my corner of it among certain families) if it's a large wedding, gifts are not brought to the reception, but rather shipped to the couple (if living together, or to the MOB if not) either ahead or within a reasonable amount of time after.

                                                                                                                                          weddings I've gone to in the NYC/NJ area, checks either brought or sent along seem to have become the standard.

                                                                                                                                          I like the send along method as the gift table always seemed a bit tacky and who wants to be assigned the task of standing guard and collecting them at the end? needless stress.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: gingershelley

                                                                                                                                          Ha! I thought requesting cash was more of a Lancaster, California redneck thing

                                                                                                                                          1. re: GreekChorus

                                                                                                                                            GC - oh one doesn't ask for $$, but if someone wonders 'whattaya suppose they'd want?' then it's just sort of casually spread around word-of-mouth by close friends cash might be preferred - but only when asked. and not directly of the couple.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                              I couldn't agree more. It was a second or third marriage for both and we had to drive eight hours and sit under 100 degree sun with no shade and stay out of the way of warring factions of blended families. It was a delight to place cash in the basket in the foyer.

                                                                                                                                    3. re: prima

                                                                                                                                      Holy mackerel. Just holy mackerel. Lucky you to have such an outrageous story to tell! Worth the price of admission!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: prima

                                                                                                                                        You were too nice. The b*tch in me would have turned around and left with the gift.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: prima

                                                                                                                                          I have NEVER heard of such a thing!! I am completely appalled!!

                                                                                                                                          1. re: prima

                                                                                                                                            I have never even heard of serving some guests dinner and others just dessert. If I'm on the dessert only list I'm either not going or leaving once I find out. Someone wants me to take the time to attend and bring a gift and they give one group dinner and another just dessert? See-ya..

                                                                                                                                            I've never even heard of anyone getting upset or annoyed at a cash bar. Totally new to me.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: prima

                                                                                                                                              I have NEVER heard of this. I have seen people invited to ceremony only but typically those were church weddings where the entire congregation was invited to watch the ceremony and then you had to be invited to the reception.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                              I worked at a restaurant once (I shall not name, it's a very popular restaurant here in L.A.) that closed for a private event, which was a birthday party with about 50 guests. $20 corkage, plated sit down dinner, the works. The idiot owner (who was really a piece of work) didn't work out the bill beforehand with the birthday girl. So the girl assumed the restaurant knew that everyone paid for themselves, the guests assumed that the bill was being taken care of by the birthday girl, and none of this was figured out until almost all the guests left. Needless to say, that was one pissed off birthday girl. What an uncomfortable night that turned out to be.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: schrutefarms

                                                                                                                                                Holy crap, schrut. what a mess! It's not all that surprising when a lack of communication is the culprit. Why is it so difficult to talk about money, commitments and who's going to be responsible? Wow.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                  And I totally (in my head, obviously) sided with the birthday girl-a restaurant should work out the finances of any event beforehand. At least ask for a credit card to be on file. That girl ended up having the worst birthday party ever. (Of course, the girl probably should have mentioned to her guests that they would be paying for herself). Just a terrible lack of communication on both parts, but ultimately the restaurant should be to blame-after all, they are running a business. If I were, say, a carpenter, I probably wouldn't build a house for someone without knowing who was paying for it.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: schrutefarms

                                                                                                                                                    Excellent points! And I'm surprised with a party even that size nothing was done to firm up payment. Crazy!

                                                                                                                                              2. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                This happened to me at a recent wedding. The bar was open during cocktail hour but then switched to cash (with no announcement or prior warning). I went to the bar to get a drink, and....oh, right, $10. I had left my wallet in the room (only had a tiny handbag) and my partner was nowhere to be found, so I had to scout the room for someone I knew well enough to hit up for a quick loan.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                                  That is embarrassing. That would have upset me.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: suzigirl

                                                                                                                                                    It didn't upset me but I'm sure my friend's husband was initially surprised when I went up to him and asked "hey, feel like buying me a drink?" Luckily he has a sense of humor.

                                                                                                                                                    It's just one of those things that could have been communicated.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                                    Ugh, the quick loan...man that really is the worst!

                                                                                                                                                2. re: charmedgirl

                                                                                                                                                  I would gladly pay for drinks to watch the celebration of two people I love. Booze is one of the biggest expenses of throwing any kind of party, so I totally get it when people want to cut that expense out. But, and just personally speaking, I do think cash bar sucks-it's like saying to your guests, hey, come celebrate us, and bring us a gift, and if you have to travel then pay for that too, but we are going to make you buy your own wine. Sorry! I guess I just feel that if you are going to host any kind of event, then host it-all of it. I once dated someone who's parents were teetotalers. They used to have a big fancy Christmas party every year, but absolutely no booze was served or allowed in their house. They would hand back hostess gifts of wine to the guest that brought it, and wouldn't allow them to open it to enjoy for themselves. Not too many people had fun at those parties. Their excuse was "we don't drink, no one else needs to." Sure, no one needs to, but people want to. And a party, I feel, is for the guests. And if your guests have a crappy time, what was the point of it all?

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: schrutefarms

                                                                                                                                                    I'm still not sure I understand your preference then -- you said that if someone is going to host an event they should host all of it. So what if they hosted the entire event on the terms they could afford (i.e, non-alcoholic drinks paid for) and did not create a situation where guests had to pay for their own alcohol (i.e., did not have a cash bar option available). Would you prefer that over making the cash bar available?

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: charmedgirl

                                                                                                                                                      My preference is that everything is hosted. I would understand if someone didn't have the funds, but I don't have to like it. Personally, I couldn't see myself throwing any kind of party where the guests had to pay for anything. But again, that's just me. I'm sure some people don't care, but I've been to cash bar weddings where all the guests looked at each other like "Really?!?" And I know I'm thinking that too, especially when I just got a babysitter/hotel room/new outfit/bought a gift. It's just sort of tacky.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: schrutefarms

                                                                                                                                                        ... I don't think my question is being understood, but seeing as how I don't actually care and it was just curiosity to begin with, I'll let it go. Thanks for the replies.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: charmedgirl

                                                                                                                                                          Ahh! I re-read your question, and yes, I don't think I understood it the first time. And the answer is-I'm not sure :) I did go to a Southern Baptist wedding where absolutely no alcohol was served, and it was not welcome anywhere inside the venue. Since that's a religious preference it was understandable. I don't ever get drunk at weddings or anything, but I do enjoy a glass of wine or two, especially if dancing is involved. So yes, I guess I'd prefer a cash bar over nothing, so the option of getting a drink is there.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: charmedgirl

                                                                                                                                                            I do think, Charmedgirl, people get your question - which really is an opinion - " you said that if someone is going to host an event they should host all of it. So what if they hosted the entire event on the terms they could afford (i.e, non-alcoholic drinks paid for) and did not create a situation where guests had to pay for their own alcohol (i.e., did not have a cash bar option available). Would you prefer that over making the cash bar available?"

                                                                                                                                                            I sense you perhaps have a wedding reception upcoming, where you don't think/can't pay for drinks for guests, and so wish to supply non-alcoholic drinks for guests and have a cash bar instead.

                                                                                                                                                            Make no mistake, it would be better to change your time of day, create a 'punch' which could be both with and a non-alcaholic - and a toast (sparkling wine), with less food, at a time of day (say, 3-5 pm reception) with only passed HD's, that would allow you to be both gracious to any guest whether drinker or not, and respect their time, commitment to your invitation, and the gift they will inevitably give you; which cost you should subtract (x guests) immediately from your budget. NO Shoot - recognize you must give generously to your celebration-guests as they are to you....

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: gingershelley

                                                                                                                                                              WOW. I'm sorry gingershelley, I say this without snark, your post made me laugh out loud. For real, not in that fake internet "LOL" way. I am so, so, so very far away from being about to be married (much to my mother's disappointment). When I said I was just curious I really meant it. And if you read the post directly above yours, schrutefarms WAS missing my question, but then did understand, and answered. It was nice of her to follow up again; I genuinely appreciate her indulging my curiosity. I promise you there was no agenda, and it WAS a question, NOT an opinion. Step away from the armchair psychology. :-)

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: schrutefarms

                                                                                                                                                            I'm not a part of this conversation, but I'm going to answer you anyway, charmed. I agree with Schrute that I'd prefer everything is hosted. However, I would prefer to have the option to purchase alcohol than have none available at all.

                                                                                                                                                            If it is a cash bar though, it would be nice if there were at least a bottle or 2 of wine available on each table. That's another way to host a small portion of the booze without having to bankroll Uncle Eddie's single malt scotch addiction.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                                                                                                              A direct answer to the question, thank you hyacinthgirl! I find the diversity of opinion on this topic really interesting.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: schrutefarms

                                                                                                                                                          I don't think someone morally opposed to alcohol should be forced to allow it at a party they are throwing. My future in laws are religiously opposed and would likely not attend an event with alcohol.

                                                                                                                                                          However my family is hosting the wedding so we will have open bar. We still haven't told the in laws yet. Yikes! I don't want to be there when he breaks it to them.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: schrutefarms

                                                                                                                                                        I don't mind cash bars if non-alcoholic drinks are free. You can always bring in a flask and put the liquor in your free soda :) Weddings are so incredibly expensive, and in some cases, the couples feel family pressure to have the big affair when they would be happy with something small.

                                                                                                                                                        The last wedding I went to, beer (Coors and Coors Light, we are in Colorado and most of the guests were from Wyoming or Minnesota) and wine (a red and a white) were complimentary, along with sodas etc. Hard liquor and any beer or wine that the bar had on tap that wasn't Coors was cash. I thought that was a good setup.

                                                                                                                                                        Another wedding I went to had open bar for the first hour, but once dinner was served it turned to a cash bar.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                                          Excellent way to manage the bar within budget - good story JJ!

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: gingershelley

                                                                                                                                                            We thought we needed to have open bar at our wedding but the manager (a friend of a friend) strongly encouraged us to do what she called a white bar, which was to offer vodka, gin and rum with the standard mixers and non-alcoholic options as well as two beer options and red and white wine. Her rational was that during an early afternoon wedding, we didn't need to offer a full bar.

                                                                                                                                                            It worked out perfectly, no complaints and it saved us a lot of money. The one thing we didn't anticipate was the requests for NA beer. Thankfully the staff was on the ball and dispatched someone to get a couple of six packs from the other bar.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: schrutefarms

                                                                                                                                                          I got married three weeks ago. There was absolutely no way I would have my friends and family pay for their own drinks at my wedding. A good meal was also extremely important to me. I think things were successful on all fronts.

                                                                                                                                                          However, most of the weddings I have been to lately have been cash bars. Some of which I've had to start a credit card tab at because I didn't know ahead of time and didn't think I needed to bring much cash with me.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: salsailsa

                                                                                                                                                            I totally agree and congratulations on your marriage :).

                                                                                                                                                            I think I'd rather be married by the justice-of-the-peace rather than ask my guests to pay for their own drinks.
                                                                                                                                                            I cannot imagine going to a wedding and having to pay for my own. It's interesting, as I read these responses, that when I hosted an affair at my home a few months ago and I had 2 bars with liquor flowing...so many younger guests were surprised there was so much 'free' booze. I couldn't figure out why they were so happy until now, having read these posts.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: schrutefarms

                                                                                                                                                            I totally agree with you, but I do think cash bars are a cultural thing. I'd never heard of them until I was in my mid-20s and met some people from Italian, Portuguese, etc. backgrounds. Prior to that, every wedding I'd ever been to was middle class Californian (let that wine flow freely), southern WASP and Cajun (my family), and upper class yankee (not enough food, but fabulous free booze), or middle to upper-class Jewish (great food and limited booze, but it was free).

                                                                                                                                                            So I think with different upbringings come different expectations of what is expected at a wedding.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                                                              I take exception to you classifying "Jewish" as ethnic as Cajun or Californian...not the same...Religious beliefs and ethnic diversity are two clearly different things...Perhaps Muslim, no booze, Roman catholic lots of wine?...get my point?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                                                                                                                Well, WASP is also technically a religious moniker as well, and "Californian" is hardly an ethnicity. I think she was making cultural distinctions, and many Jews in my acquaintance are culturally Jewish but not particularly religious (it can also go the other way, of course), so I think it's valid to describe Jewish culture.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Savour

                                                                                                                                                                  Exactly. I wasn't classifying people, just pointing out that there are different types of cultures (geographic, religious, ethnic) and that that these cultures have different expectations. Sorry if I offended anyone.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                                                                    You did not offend me, however I am Italian/Polish, and have many Portugese friends. The liquor flows. These are cultures that are not booze-shy.

                                                                                                                                                                    That said, this could also be because we are NY-ers, and culturaly speaking, the weddings are a little more extravagant here.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                                                                As a "member of the tribe", I;ve never been to a function where the booze was limited. Food and drink up to the eyebrows is the general rule of thumb.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MRS


                                                                                                                                                                  I remember my cousin's stunned surprise when the caterer at my wedding wheeled out the Viennese table. He couldn't believe he was allowed to help himself to anything and everything he wanted. And that was *after* the cocktail hour and seated meal and *before* the cake was served. Oh yeah, open bar, too. My father, a non-drinker, wouldn't have it any other way. And I had a modest wedding by NY standards.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: rockycat

                                                                                                                                                                    At our wedding, my father had to add extra this and extra that...only top shelf alcohol, the works. Including a man whose job is was to follow my FIL with a tray of his fave hors d'oeuvre. When the florist suggested special lights and such for the ballroom and chuppah, that was a "no". He said- its a hotel! it has lights already! But, anything his guests would consume- yes, yes!!

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MRS

                                                                                                                                                                      Sounds like my father! He will pay anything when it comes to the food but he said go easy on flowers etc because who cares or remembers.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: MRS

                                                                                                                                                                    By limited, I mean that people didn't get smashed, not that the hosts didn't pour it freely. In my experience, Jewish weddings aren't as full of heavy drinkers as WASP and Cajun weddings.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                                                                      I guess we don't attend the same kind of Jewish weddings!!

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                                                                                                        Why? Were you responding to isolda?

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MRS

                                                                                                                                                                          Yes, sorry, I was responding to Isolda.

                                                                                                                                                                          The Jewish weddings I've been to are all about tophe alcohol

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                                                                                                            Interesting! The ones I've been to all had excellent food, but I felt weird having a second glass of wine.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                                                                              Then you didn't come to mine! I took a tray of shots around to the guests like a cocktail waitress to encourage everyone to partake.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                                                                                oy vey!! ours was free flowing with a martini/drink ice lunge during cocktail hour and multiple bars in the ballroom during dinner and dancing

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                                                                                  God, you need to come East. Most weddings here are over flowing with booze. My dad haggled with me over the price of the band but then insisted a full open bar-nothing was off limits, You want a strawberry margarita? No problem. A double stoli frozen mudslide? Coming right up. Bottles of Moet on every table, high end whites and reds on there too. My husbands friends were getting so drunk we left the reception early. The stories we heard when we got back from our honeymoon?? Crazy!

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                                                                                    Why would you feel weird about having a second glass of wine?

                                                                                                                                                                                    Jews coming together, along with guests who aren't Jewish, are all about celebrating with great food, wine and lots and lots of booze.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. It's a toss-up between one wedding with pretzels, chips with salsa and very basic veggie platters with baby-cut carrots (I can't remember an actual main or any hot appetizers), and a buffet wedding with pre-frozen lasagnas, pre-frozen mixed vegetables and a cash bar, with cash soda. I think we were even more disappointed by the lasagna because we had heard my relative was marrying someone with a French Cdn background, with family roots in QC, so we had hopes of the kind of French Cdn cuisine we seek out in Quebec (duck, tourtiere, pouding chomeur, great cheeses, etc). We didn't expect grocery store lasagna.

                                                                                                                                                                      To any engaged people considering hosting a cash bar at their weddings: if I'm driving 6+ hours out of my way for your wedding, to share your special day and give you a big fat wedding gift, I'd think you could buy me a soda!

                                                                                                                                                                      1. I recall a wedding on a small, private boat. The reception was in July. It was well over 90 degrees with patent NJ humidity. I recall several guests getting sick from warm food, warm beer and a lack of proper on board cooling systems. The dj was a waste of $$, no one wanted to dance in sweaty wedding attire. By the time we got off the boat we were RUNNING to turn the A/C on in our cars.

                                                                                                                                                                        When the couple sent out wedding photos there was one photo of them holding a over sized weather thermometer. No joke..it was freaking impossible to enjoy that wedding. No real effort was made to keep the food cool or the beverages cold. Waste of $$.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. Small wedding, kind of a fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants affair. The bride called the bridesmaids and asked our sizes and told us where to pick up our dresses...which were not only pink polyester and hideous, but surprisingly expensive. The wedding was at a hall where it was horribly hot, remember...floor-length polyester...and for the reception we were all directed to a small Mexican restaurant where a meal had been pre-ordered for us. Mediocre food...not great, not terrible. The bride, groom, and parents kept calling for 'another round' of margaritas and got absolutely plastered. Then the bride's family, bride, groom, mom & dad, departed in a cab and the waiters brought the ENORMOUS bill , carefully divided into twelve parts, for the rest of the wedding party to pay for. Marriage lasted less than a year. No surprise.

                                                                                                                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: tcamp

                                                                                                                                                                              I was wondering if tonifi still speaks to these folks.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                I do still speak to her, but I found a reason to not be available for her second wedding...and third...and fourth. Best wedding EVER was at City Museum with unlimited bar (and Schlaflly beer, natch), sushi bar, pasta station, pizza bar, carvery, and a kid's menu... and a punk band with a mosh pit and the bride going down the giant slides in thirty yards of multi-colored crinoline and satin. I don't even WANT to know what it cost, but I've never had so much fun.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: tonifi

                                                                                                                                                                                  I love your bounce-back attitude! Good for you, tonifi!

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: tonifi

                                                                                                                                                                                    But this "best wedding ever" wasn't the original bride, was it? She had so many that I'm not sure.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                                      Nope. I can't say that I moved out of own for the next ten years PURELY to avoid her next three weddings...but I'm kind of glad it worked out that way.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: tonifi

                                                                                                                                                                                      dang toni - City Museum and you didn't call me? was the rooftop ferris wheel running that night? (maybe they didn't have it yet then).

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: tonifi

                                                                                                                                                                                        FWIW the City Museum Toni references is beyond belief, yet not a museum exactly.


                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: tonifi


                                                                                                                                                                                    Polyester expensive dress and blindsiding reception bill - you didn't know you had to pay!

                                                                                                                                                                                  3. Pretty far off topic, but a good "bad" story-- Went to an outdoor wedding in the Santa Cruz mountains, and the minister's elderly father (who no one was expecting, as it turned out) took a "discreet" pee on a tree unseen by the main players but in full view of the guests. A stifled hoot was had by all. The food at the reception was decent, as I recall.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. At the wedding of one of my husband's relatives, no expense was spared - except for when it came to food. There was a huge church wedding followed by a lavishly decorated reception, complete with string quartet, and then out came the elaborate, four-tier cake. . .which turned out to be one of those mostly-fake decorated concoctions. The one actual cake tier was cut and served to the bridal party. The fake cake was wheeled back into the kitchen, and then tiny squares of grocery store sheet cake (not even remotely like the bridal party's cake) were handed out to guests.

                                                                                                                                                                                      More than ten years on, the only thing anyone ever talks about regarding their wedding is that cheap, nasty cake they served to their guests after going through the trouble and expense to have such a large fake cake made for looks.

                                                                                                                                                                                      15 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: JulesNoctambule

                                                                                                                                                                                        I attended a wedding where this was done. I find the "two-tiered" treatment for guests highly offensive. As a host I believe the goal should be to provide a the best time possible with in your means. Treating some of the guests differently than others is wrong on many, many levels.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Either scale back the menu or cut back the guest list. To be made to feel less of a guest is absolutely rude.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                                          I totally agree. It is beyond offensive to decide certain guests are worthy of extras and others are not. I thought that is why the wedding party sometimes does a wedding brunch the next day--to celebrate with a more intimate group of family and friends. I cannot understand the tackiness displayed in some if the stories here.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jlhinwa

                                                                                                                                                                                            tacky but funny! great post..keep em' coming :D

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                                            The way I was raised, if you can't afford to give all your guests a fine time then you don't have a party! Which doesn't mean spending a ton every time, just that you offer the best you can with the most courtesy you can muster; it can be elaborate and costly, or a gesture as simple as making sure that you have something better than salad for the three vegetarian neighbours who are invited to your barbecue - the complete focus on the comfort of guests is the key. Hospitality rules, and treating some guests as second-class is simply not done. Sitting there in a $4k dress while your guests are given grocery store cake is unthinkable to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I spent as little as I could manage on my wedding dress and made my own veil so we'd have more money for the food and drink. At the wedding, we had two cakes (both real!) plus a hot and cold buffet and a cheese table, because I could have shown up in a burlap sack and no one would have batted an eye as long as there was plenty to eat, but G-d help me if I'd cheaped out on the comforts for my guests - I'd still be hearing about it from my mother decades on! As it is, no one can remember what I wore (as it should be), but I still get compliments on the cake.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: JulesNoctambule

                                                                                                                                                                                              Sitting there in a $4k dress while your guests are given grocery store cake is unthinkable to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Me too yet I have been a guest a number of weddings were this likely the case.

                                                                                                                                                                                              I have a circle of friends whose sons and daughters are at the age where we are invited to many weddings. I have heard plenty of tails about wedding attire costs well into mid four figures and extreme cost cutting at the reception, like fake cakes and cleaning the hall themselves to save the $200 cleaning fee.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Weddings have spiraled out of control and the (mostly) brides have drank the industry koolaid.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: JulesNoctambule

                                                                                                                                                                                                Totally agree! I got my dress at a resale place. We couldn't afford the delicious ornate cakes that we wanted, so instead we found a woman who made various bite sized desserts and brownies and specialty cookies and we set out a dessert buffet of good stuff instead of a slice of gross cake for everyone.
                                                                                                                                                                                                My mom really wanted us to do the cake-cutting though, so we bought a small round grocery store cake just to cut into it. It was supposed to just be white, plain but for some reason it had a giant yellow frosting "3" on the center of it (apparently the grocery store baker misread that it was being picked up at 3pm...). I thought that was hilarious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                  If you haven't yet, please send that story to Cake Wrecks!

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                                                Agreed meatn3. At my wedding, the entire cake was meant to be shared, and by someone's tradition, the top tier was to be saved for the first anniversary. Well, the cake ran short and the adult niece and nephews of the groom somehow didn't get any. We had to make whoever was serving it (I honestly don't remember at this point) understand that it was more important for people to be happy now than have more sweet cake than we really wanted. Everyone left happy!

                                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: JulesNoctambule

                                                                                                                                                                                                Super cool! I have never heard nor seen a 'fake-cake" on the west coast - but that is a great story to spread among'st my catering friends here. Can't believe someone would do that - but it's hilariously - awful at the same time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I am for small great delicious cakes myself. Size means nothing in this area, as in many others. Only quality:)

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: gingershelley

                                                                                                                                                                                                  There was a whole long thread here on the fake-cake thing a few years back: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/476376

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Thank you - so curious! I shall read on..... :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: gingershelley

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm on the west coast, in Vancouver. For my first wedding, in the 70s, fake/stage cakes for cutting were the norm. We didn't even serve cake at the wedding, just sent people home with small pieces of marzipan topped fruitcake. All of which were meticulously hand-wrapped and ribboned by my family and wedding party.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. re: JulesNoctambule


                                                                                                                                                                                                    What goes through the mind of a host who does that & thinks it's okay to do so?

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: JulesNoctambule

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I have seen the mostly fake cake, cheaply sheet cake thing at two weddings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I've never seen that done, but I have tasted wedding cake so bad that a fake one might have tasted better.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. This wasn't a wedding, but my husband's class reunion in PA The invitation said dinner and dancing at a country club, so we (Midwesterns) dressed accordingly .... suit and tie, dress and heels, nothing super fancy. Or so we thought. When we got there, the country club was a barn with an unpaved and unlighted parking lot in the middle of the country. (That was fun with heels on.) It was a club based out of the barn, which was basically a bar with a kitchen. We were grossly overdressed. Most everyone else showed up in khakis or jeans and Steelers sweatshirts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The kicker was the food. The club forgot about the event, so it didn't prepare any. The organizer found out when he arrived for the evening. He scrambled and took up a collection; there was a local deli that did some catering nearby so he took whatever they had on hand, which was alumimum pans of Italian (honestly not bad when it arrived), although Mr. Shaja couldn't eat much because he doesn't like pasta.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Final kicker was "dancing." There was a pitted concrete floor (clearly left over from the "barn" days; again, not fun with heels) with a big fire pit in the middle of the room. Someone stuck a iPod into some speakers and that was that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I later saw the organizer drowning his sorrows at the bar; poor man had had a rough night.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: shaja

                                                                                                                                                                                                        <We were grossly overdressed. Most everyone else showed up in khakis or jeans and Steelers sweatshirts.>

                                                                                                                                                                                                        "Steelers sweatshirts" says it all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I thoroughly expect our PA relatives to come to the wedding in jeans and flannel. My father will be wearing a tuxedo however. This should be interesting. Too bad we have to wait until October for a report.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. I attended a small wedding of a classmate while in college. There were four hours between the ceremony and the reception.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        The reception was held in the 2nd floor hall of a firehouse in New Jersey. Appetizers were cheese and crackers and a keg of warm beer.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        We had to check off beef or fish on the response cards. When the meals were brought out to the tables, it was either Big Mac or Filet O'Fish, no fries, no veg...........
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Date and I went out for supper as soon as we could escape. I never rec'd a thank you for the gift and have never had any contact with this former friend since.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Tacky all around

                                                                                                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                          If you checked vegetarian did you get a big bag of french fries? LOL. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Antilope

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1973-veg was not an option or common.............

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I HAVE checked veg., yet received a 22 lb. slab o' beef instead. Asked the caterer, only to be told there were no veg plates. I just ate around the meat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Also, I believe McDonald's was doing their fries in tallow at that point, so they wouldn't have been vegetarian anyway. But good God, how horrible. :(

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. My worst dinner/reception experience was due to my misplaced expectations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I was in college and was invited to the wedding of acquaintances. Prior to this point most of the weddings I had been to were Jewish or Greek - so food and drink were a big aspect of the celebration.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            This wedding was Southern Baptist. The 4 p.m. wedding had a very long prayer service in an un-airconditioned church in Tallahassee, Fl. in June. The reception was in a basement of a lodge or union building. Very stark. Folding chairs lining the walls. In the center of the narrow room stood a small table covered in white cloth which held punch (non-alcoholic), butter mints and dry roasted peanuts. No one approached this table.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Small clusters of people arrived and sat down. Most of the people were the brides family who whispered amongst them selves. There was no music. Regular speaking tones seemed to echo in the room and raise the eyebrows of the family. You could hear the ice crack from time to time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            After an hour or so the immediate wedding party arrived. A pretty homemade cake was brought out. The couple cut the cake, feed each other a bite. Then they went around the room thanking each guest for attending. Then they were gone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            At that point people began serving themselves punch (ice had melted long ago) and cake. They quietly reseated themselves and quickly ate without conversation. By this point it was 7:30 - 7:45 and the guest began to file out...

                                                                                                                                                                                                            It was such a cheerless gathering that you left feeling somewhat depressed. And hungry, very hungry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I went to a wedding something like that, only done well. It was in a church reception hall, but any religious aspect was downplayed to the point of imperceptibility. It was simply a champagne and cake reception for practically everyone the bride and groom knew.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I was there because I worked with the groom, whom I hardly knew. It was the opposite of intimate, but it was still very classy. Just not elaborate. Not expensive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Personally, I think it's silly to spend big bucks on a big wedding unless you've got the bucks to spend doing it right. Give the bride and groom something useful, like a down payment on a house, or a contribution towards same, instead of trying to put on some big deal you can't afford to do right.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Agreed. Money issues are a huge reason marriages don't work out-why start out your life together by spending money you don't have? Reminds me of a girlfriends wedding years ago-

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I got a save the date in the mail (she was a friend, not a super good one, but more than an acquaintance). A month later, I (and I imagine quite a few other people) got a letter in the mail. The gist of it was that, although they would have loved to have all of their friends to their wedding, they would rather spend the bulk of their saving on a down payment for a house, so they hoped we understood, but they decided to scale back their wedding to just family and very close friends.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                I couldn't have understood more. I absolutely respected her decision to tell people flat out, and for her and her husband to decide what was more important for them to spend their money on. Ten years on, that same couple are still very happily married, and live in the house they bought all those years ago with their 6 year old and their two dogs. They definitely made the right decision, and I doubt anyones feelings were too hurt, mine certainly weren't.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: schrutefarms

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Now that kind of communication is what I'm talking about. Awesome, fearless and so totally smart.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I completely agree that it is silly to spend money on a big wedding unless you have it and wish too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My story wasn't meant to imply I felt they were cheap. I simply was used to food and lots of lively chatter. This was so quiet it was creepy. Because of the time frame most of us had assumed that the food would be of a heavier nature.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Had I had an inkling what to expect I would have worn lighter weight clothing and had a late lunch!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Several years ago my wife and me attended a very posh, Country Club wedding reception. Large attendance. Open bar all evening. H'orderve tables salted around the dining room. Champagne fountain, chocolate fountain. Three individual dinner courses served tableside by waitstaff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Honestly, it was a show of wealth and ostentation that made me a bit uncomfortable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Lo, these years later, the bride and groom live in a five room apartment over a bakery. And the groom works for his FIL!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: RedTop

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This wedding sounds like many weddings that are about the parents, not the bride and groom.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      When my older siblings married (1970 and 71) their input was not sought regarding the wedding (only the dress or Tux). The wedding extravaganza was a statement iof my parents status and standing in the business, country club and ethnic community. Weddings that started at 5PM and the booze and orchestra flowed until 3AM the next day. Cocktail hours with hot and cold shmorg, full prime rib dinners carved at the tables and 2AM breakfast buffet with omelettes, pancakes and waffles made to order. A dance orchestra, arock band, singers and a comedian.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I had to walk my sister and new brother-in-law from table to table to introduce them to more than 300 business guests. They visited the 300 friends and relatives on their own.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In those days it was common for FOB's business to pay for weddings. My dad was in the clothing business and gramps made formalwear, a wedding was a showcase for our goods.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        As a reply to those who feel it's crazy to spend crazy money on a wedding- I get that, I do. As it happens in my life, my father dropped dead a month after my wedding. My wedding was a tremendous affair and a sizeable expense for him, but I don't think in my entire life I ever saw him happier, more proud of himself and his family and so filled with joy to host people he really cared about/ wanted to know better.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        My point is, life's beautiful moments are worth celebrating to the fullest -whatever that means to you and yours- because you just never know when your turn in this life is done.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I think about this every single moment of my daughters' lives now.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. I understand that we've veered off into diverse bad-wedding stories...but I'm having a lot of fun reading them. Frankly, most of the food I've had at weddings has been of the rubber-chicken variety (you know, slice of protein, twice-baked potato, 'vegetable medley.' Not good. When you look down at your plate and see the frozen vegetable medley, you kind of know where the meal is going to go...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Cash bar (don't the wedding horror stories always seem to start with that?) in a very run down banquet hall. First course came out, it was Lipton instant chicken noodle soup. Served in styrofoam bowls (all the subsequent serveware was styrofoam and plastic). Basket of rolls on the table didnt have enough to go around and the servers didn't have any extras. Meal was a half scoop of mashed potatoes with yellow congealed gravy, a small scoop of canned green beans, and a fried chicken patty cut in half. I think there also may have been a plastic soufflé cup half filled with coleslaw. A small square of sheet cake brought out with no cake cutting ceremony. So yes, it was a meal provided to guests, but basically skimpy and practically inedible. It was just depressing. It looked like prison food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  41 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: charlesbois

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    <Cash bar>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I've been to my share of over-the-top crappy food at weddings (haven't we all?) but it's the 'cash bar' that seems so tacky.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Why not just have the guests purchase drink tickets at the door? Or RSVP with the invitation asking for a check up front?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It'd save the guests having to bring cash.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I attended a wedding for a family friend, where the booze bill cost as much as the food bill. What was disappointing to the MOG and FOG, who paid for the booze bill, was that many guests would order a drink, take a few sips, put it on a table, and walk away, walk back to the bar to order another drink. A lot of the guests drank a lot more than they would have ordered if they were buying their own drinks. The MOG figured at least 20-25 percent of the drinks ordered weren't finished by the guests who ordered them, and the guests at that particular wedding didn't care or understand that someone was paying for the drinks they wasted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Depending on the personalites and manners of the invited guests, I can see why some weddings have cash bars or toonie bars (where guests have booze subsidized by the hosts, but pay $2 from their own pocket/drink). People aren't so likely to waste booze they've bought for themselves.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Such a valid point. While we're busy focusing on the tackiness of guests we should give equal time to the folks footing the bill. Wasteful bar tabs are hard to swallow.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Alternatives...time limit on an open bar, drink limit per guest, cash bar, signature drink, wine & beer only, mocktails and no bar.....all I've experienced and some ideas went over better then others. Some wedding less was spent on food and more on booze. Recently we attended a wedding where there was no main dinner or big wedding cake. There was international food stations with an open bar for 3 hours and each guest received a boxed slice of cake to take home.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Thankfully there are a gazillion ways to budget for food and booze type affairs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You are right about the gazillion ways to budget and plan for weddings and receptions! I am happy to see the old school etiquette rules go away. I truly dislike traditional weddings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thankfully, the weddings I have been to recently are very creative, non traditional, and food and drink oriented. Some were outside, potluck type, one on a boat, some full bar at a high end resto, some cash bar, some BYOB to the reception/after party. The "limited signature cocktail" idea is big right now. I like that, a few cocktails provided .....or BYOB if that is not enough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          My worst reception food was years ago- catered, buffet style, chicken breast with yellow goop, green beans, clover rolls and folgers coffee in one of those huge metal containers. Dessert was the traditional white cake (yuk) and store bought cookies. It was after a traditional white gown wedding in a church. Honestly, I was surprised to be invited as I am not a good friend of either the persons. I would have rather paid myself to eat better and have a drink :(

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sometimes people get stuck on etiquette or what they are "supposed" to do, instead of what makes sense and reflects their lifestyle. Maybe my state/social circle is a bit different where weddings are concerned. We have a lot of outdoor events and allow same sex marriage. Tradition, no thanks :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm with you there and the older I get the more flexible I try to be about invites of any kind. What I've observed as far as traditions go is that if the bride and/or groom have parents or close relatives truly rich in such traditions or are paying for the entire wedding and feel the money means they have the right to dictate how the wedding is planned-tradition will play a larger role in how the wedding comes together. If the couple is blessed to have family willing to let them design their own wedding (in budget) the celebration can run the gamut of creative and unique ideas from food, to location, to music, to guest list. Some are truly remarkable and memorable occasions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The affair, at my home, wasn't anything less cost-wise, than you're talking about. There were half-eaten, have consumed, wasted 'everything' all over the place.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The truth is....anyone who decides to put on an affair like that should be able to afford the cost and not end the evening looking at the amount of booze that's not been consumed and lamenting the waste they see.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I would never in a billion years ask my guests to pay for, limit themselves, eat less, drink less etc.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I just wouldn't host that kind of affair. If a person can't afford it then they shouldn't do it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Get married with a few friends & family, pay for what you can afford without asking them to kick in, and live happily ever after with no debt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            So in your not asking your guests to concern themselves about what you're spending you are suggesting how other people hosting an affair at home or otherwise should behave themselves (ie: be a gracious host).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I understand that's what you would do. But what about the folks who have no idea what they're doing? Their a young, inexperienced couple just starting out in life making dual, large money decisions. They have no clue what to expect or better yet how a wedding can go from well planned to all sorts of unexpected expenses.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            When you've had experience, plenty can go right....and when you don't it's live and learn.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "The MOG figured at least 20-25 percent of the drinks ordered weren't finished by the guests who ordered them, and the guests at that particular wedding didn't care or understand that someone was paying for the drinks they wasted."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Wasteful? Ok. Thoughtless? Ok. But I can't fathom judging my guests on whether they finish their drinks or food before moving on. "OMG, Judy didn't even finish half her salad! Doesn't she realize I am paying good money for this?! " When you give a gift, you forgo the right to dictate the terms in which the recipient utilizes the gift. I can understand some disappointment but not judgment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The open bar at my own wedding was based on the number people attending and the length of service, not the number of drinks people had. Nothing runs out.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              When faced with the bar bill some people have regrets and wind up worrying that they under estimated the costs. that doesn't mean while the guests were drinking the grooms parents were literally counting drinks. Granted it sounds terrible but haven't you ever under estimated a bill and regretted it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I suppose thinking of these wedding issues thru our own eyes doesn't necessarily work...not everyone acts the way we would. Makes for an interesting story though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I understood it as the MOG was taking note of the guests and estimating who did or didn't finish their drinks and she felt they were unappreciative of her "generosity." I agree it is a shame there was wastefulness, but short of guests dumping their drinks on the floor, it is not the hosts' place to judge her guests. I can't imagine the manners of my guests under such scrutiny.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Gosh I hope the MOG wasn't literally counting drinks..

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    No, the MOG wasn't literally counting drinks. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    She saw a lot of full drinks being picked up by barbacks off tables, and they were billed for a lot of drinks, considering the size of the wedding party and the length of the reception. She had been in the restaurant and bar business, and the size of that bar bill was unexpected.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for clarifying, prima.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I wouldn't necessarily place all the blame on the guests then. The barbacks may have been too quick in picking up drinks. One wedding we went to the bf and a friend ordered multiple drinks that they managed to get only a sip of before it got cleared from the table. They eventually gave up and stopped ordering drinks. Hopefully the venue billed on a predetermined rate and not consumption.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Some halls/restaurants account for every drink, whereas others charge a rate based on the number of guests, as you've described. I attended a PA wedding with an open bar this weekend, and the staff entered every soft drink and every alcoholic drink into their system. Most weddings I've attended in Canada don't keep close track of the drinks once open bar has been arranged.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I've actually been at a few weddings where the bar has run out of wine or vodka!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I don't think leaving close-to-full cocktails or mixed drinks on tables to be discarded, then heading to the bar to order new drinks is the same thing as leaving some salad on a plate or not finishing a glass of bad wine. I can see why my family friends were annoyed. I think it's disrespectful to the hosts, whether it's the couple getting married, or their parents, to be so wasteful. YMMV

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I agree. To me that's bad manners. It's just as bad as someone taking a full plate of food from the caterers, nibbling at one or two pieces, then putting it aside to go and get another full plate of food of something else.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I see no difference between people not finishing their food and not finishing their drinks. If someone doesn't like it or it got watered down while they were dancing and enjoying themselves, I say feel free. I want a no hassle, no worry celebration.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I was totally unaware that some places actually keep track of every drink. Honestly, never knew.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        When my BIL remarried the bartenders not only counted drinks they billed him for drinks enjoyed by guests from a wedding party across the main hallway of the restaurant. Yeah, four people who recognized folks attending my BIL's wedding but were actually attending another wedding across the main hallway ordered drinks from his bar....that's how closely the bartenders watch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        He and his new bride had to spend the end of their wedding reception going over the bar bill with the owner. Not fun!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Terrible! It was a good thing they weren't leaving immediately for a honeymoon. Remember when people used to do that?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I know. They had to keep their driver waiting tho. It was so awful for them to end the night that way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The host pays for one meal for you at the affair. The host may be paying by the drink or bottle.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          So, if you eat all the salad or roast beef or only two bites the cost to the host is the same, BUT if you keep getting fresh drinks, because you are closer to the bar after dancing than to your previous drink at your table, the host may be paying more.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I was in the catering business years ago. We didn't ever do cash bars. We did, however allow our patrons to supply their own wine/liquor (never served beer), and we charged X dollars per head for soft drinks, mixers, ice, garnishes and glassware. We required and billed for one bartender per 50 guests.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          That said, when I was in college I waited tables at big Catskill Resort Hotels during the holidays and summers. The management used to train busboys to quickly clear partially finished drinks while patrons got up to dance (in the nightclub) so that bar business would increase. Regulars learned this trick and it was common to see one couple remain. at a table on guard duty while the others danced

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Interesting. I only ever knew of open bar as being unlimited alcohol available for a flat fee. Billing for open bar either way should still generate a net profit for the provider, no? Is one way more profitable/equitable than the other?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              There's a few different ways to do an open bar-sometimes the bartender is ringing up every single drink and could itemize it at the end of the night, if need be. Sometimes, they will do a flat rate by multiplying the number of guests by, say $20 (figuring everyone is good for two alcoholic drinks-they figure the people that don't drink make up for the ones that have more than two). Also, the host could put down a credit card and tell the staff to alert him/her when it gets to a certain amount. I think it really just depends on the venue. Some make the hosts supply their own.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                When my stepdaughter got married, for the bar we had an option of either paying by the hour ($9/first hour, $7 each additional hour) or by consumption. With 125 of OUR friends and family, by the hour was the only way to go. And it was premium beers, wine, bubbly, top shelf liquor, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It is standard in the catering industry (at least where I work where it is SOP) to inventory the bar before and after the function. So the host would be charged for x bottles (or partial bottles) of liquor, x bottles of wine (once opened, charged for the full bottle) etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              If it is a cash bar then the bartender has to account for the inventory vs. the cash/credit card tally received. If the cash till is short, then the bartender has a big problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                There are indeed lots of ways to do open bars.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Similar to hungrygal, when a close friend of mine got married, the venue (an old, renovated castle) ran their bar options by allowing the client to buy x amount of bottles of specific liquors, wine, and beer directly from them in advance. They would then be credited for anything unopened. I think the guests did a pretty job of finishing it all off.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: charlesbois

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Another hater of the "cash bar".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Pro-tip for those planning a wedding (or any other shindig):

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Throw the party you can AFFORD to throw.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Daughter of a long-time caterer here (and boy have I seen some wedding horrors...)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        pedalfaster, I'd enjoy knowing your insight on why couples feel obligated to go overboard financially. What is the #1 reason (or top 4) that your Mom has experienced or observed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        While I'm no longer a caterer (and when I was the catering co. only served breakfast in bed on the weekends) I run a BnB and we've been approached several times about hosting small weddings (not just honeymoons) on site. My partners and I have so far declined these requests.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Now you are making me think (LOL). Over 20 years ago...but honestly? It seems to have been parental pressure. Many of the brides brought mom or the future MIL along. "Sue Ellen had XXX at her wedding..."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think back-in-the-day, when Dad paid for everything, it worked out. He might grumble a bit, but the bills got paid. I would also note that during this time-frame a wedding was sometimes (often?) viewed as a political/social or quasi-work affair.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But now ?, many younger couples are paying for their own wedding. And I think that may be changing some traditions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Some of the best weddings (IMO) that I have attended recently have been entirely bride/groom financed. That includes food and drink!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          One was a pot-luck in a barn, complete with haybales and red-checkered tablecloths. I had fun shopping for a gift-pyrex dish for the bride/groom, as well as typing up the recipe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The other was at a state park and included daisy flower arrangements, Cajun buffet food, and a "booze-gift" bar-- that worked quite well. I'd rather buy a bottle at retail and attach a pithy "best wishes" note than pony-up for watered down cheapness in chain hotel "reception" room.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Love your post. I completely agree when you said, It seems to have been parental pressure. Many of the brides brought mom or the future MIL along. "Sue Ellen had XXX at her wedding..."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            that has been my exp. as well...and I even hit on a tad of that upthread. Parents should leave their adult children alone...on these types of life affirming, decision-making situations... :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            pot luck in a barn and a state park daisy Cajun, huh-what fun!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            But don't you know you can charge up to 2x the amount that you normally would because "wedding" is attached to the services provided?!?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Seriously though, it really galls me that vendors seem to gouge when it comes to weddings. I've known a few people who have booked their receptions as just a plain old party and have been charged less. Luckily they were more the non-traditional types that didnt require some of the attendant hoopla for wedding receptions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: charlesbois

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              charlesb, if I made every decision on $$$ alone I'd be a very wealthy lady. Just not my bag to sell my soul for drama-rama!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I've tested the theory you describe many x's and you are so right, upcharges galore. Silly example: I still fit in youth size sneakers and I save myself a bundle each year buying in the youth dept for workout footwear!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: charlesbois

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yep. My mom told the tent rental place that she needed a tent for a family reunion (not a lie, because lots of family were coming to my brother's wedding) and got the tent and tables for 2/3 of what she would have paid if she'd said it was for a wedding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Hmmm. I might have to test that one out. Any event around here is a family reunion for my fiance, as he's related to half the county!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Kontxesi

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Seriously, do. The only disadvantage my mom found was that she had to have a yellow and white striped tent rather than a plain white one, but she was fine with that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                <My partners and I have so far declined these requests>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                After reading this thread and the varying nuances I think I'd decline indefinitely, HillJ.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm not sure it'd be worth the headache.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Ha! My partners talked me out of the wedding biz eons ago. I'd still consider newlyweds at some point but I enjoy so much peace in my own small world that I wouldn't welcome a lack thereof ...no matter how much $$$ I was offered.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: pedalfaster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I wonder if the combination of "bad wedding reception food" and cash bar often go together given that when drinks are flowing and the atmosphere is festive, guests are more inclined to be forgiving of mediocre to problematic food. When there's a more celebratory mood to the whole event, then the fact that it's not a bazillion dollar wedding isn't as important.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The worst wedding reception I've ever been to had nothing to do with the quality of the food but how somber the whole affair was. While there was an open bar, by and large guests weren't drinking, there was no music other than quiet mood music, and the overall noise level of the reception of 150 people was at library level. Neither the bride or groom were really dancers, so I understand not going for a DJ/dance party - but the whole event ended up feeling so joyless.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  That's strongly possibly, cresyd. I actually couldn't tell you what the food was at the weddings where I had the best times, because the focus was on a bunch of fun people, having a good time, drinking, dancing and creating hilarity. When there's been limited or no alcohol and a quieter tone, the food takes center-stage because it's the last attempt at a positive memory from the evening and it generally doesn't stack up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yeah - I have a friend who frequently hosts meals at his house in a true "I have a, b, and c in the fridge - come over for dinner!" - but the atmosphere is always so festive and fun, no matter how random the meal it's a good time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Now this is true. At my brother's no-alcohol reception, held in the church function hall, the one thing I remember was how delicious the cake was. Frosting was light and not too sweet, cake was moist and tasted like real vanilla. Would have been nice to wash it down with some champagne, though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              4. a former coworker of my husband's (and current friend) got married in NJ somewhere. We drove up from DC. Beautiful wedding, gorgeous venue. VERY LONG wait for the food. What came out was surf & turf if I recall correctly - very badly done, over cooked and cold. What I remember most was going through the McDonald's drive thru after leaving the wedding because I didn't or couldn't eat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Thirty years ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A friend of mine, going out of her way to find a doctor to marry, decided to get married. She planned a wedding & invited approx. 50 guests made up of family and friends.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The ceremony itself was held in a church, nicely done, and for the reception we were all asked to get in our cars and follow them to a restaurant of their choice. This was told to all of us outside the church after the ceremony. We all packed into our cars and followed in a line 30 miles to restaurant at a beautiful, very famous winery. To make a very long story short we all arrived famished, ordered individually off the menu, drank many bottles of wine and were each given our own tabs which amounted, in my case, close to $400 largely due to the cost of the wine. None of us had brought cash or cards except for a few who had and we all ended up sending our money afterward to the ones who'd covered for us. The bride and groom left shortly before the tabs came and we were all stuck with the bill including tip. It all ended in a collective 'middle finger' to the a-hole she decided to divorce within a few months because of his narcissism.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  32 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Are you still friends? How close a friend who doesn't explain before the wedding how the wedding was being paid for? No down payment up front? Wow, latind. that's some crazy arse story.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      She didn't have the conventional wedding with attendants, bridesmaids etc. so as a 'friend' I wasn't privy to the details. All we were told to do was show up and celebrate, which we did at our own expense.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I haven't talked to her in many years. Her divorce was contentious...it was right out of 'War of the Roses', neither of them would leave the house. I wasn't interested in the lurid details of that weird match and her dream of 'gotta have a doctor' eventually ended with some prodding, from what I was told.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      She just as big of an a-hole. Like she didn't know-she planned the wedding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I didn't want to be that blunt..but yes, they both took advantage of their guests.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I really believe, upon reflection of this episode I've long ago forgotten about, think it's what has molded my opinion about cash bars as crazy as that sounds.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              yes, I can understand why it left a bad taste in your mouth. And to the extent you picked up their tab, they did take advantage of you. However, from another perspective: you said you spent $400 mostly because of wine. That is quite a hefty bill even by current standards and for an upscale place....would you have spent that much if you knew you were picking up the bill yourself? (If not, seems that you thought you had an opportunity to take advantage of free wine and food yourself...) Was that for a group or just you? (it has been a very, very long time since I had a restaurant bill of $400 for one person, and actually even a long time since I've had a bill that much for two. Heck, I recently took four people out to Restaurant August in New Orleans, a top restaurant in a top restaurant city, and the total bill for four with tax and tip, including pre-dinner drinks and a bottle of wine, wasn't a whole lot more than that.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I guess when I hear stories like this, I completely understand the sentiment behind cash bars, if not the etiquette...Ditto for the first poster who said the worst wedding he ever went to was cash bar, finger sandwiches and white cake. Really? White cake is quite common at weddings, and I can think of a lot of things I'd dislike more than finger sandwiches (rubber chicken anyone?).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              But then, my daughter was married in a lovely wedding (with almost 500 guests), at a top hotel, with three live bands, dancing well into the night, a buche noel at midnight (the wedding started on Christmas eve and went into Christmas Day), and lots of fun. There wasn't any alcohol served at all. The wedding was in Tunisia, so alcohol wasn't expected. However, if you wanted a drink, the hotel bar off the lobby was open (on a cash basis obviously). I guess many of you posters would have hated it, (since it appears that most of these 'worst' stories appear to center around the lack of free booze) but I thought it was great. (Besides, those of us who snuck out to the bar to buy a drink had some funny stories about what happened out there, but that is a story for another time..).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It really is a cultural issue (often tied to religion, sometimes tied to finances) and personally really hate the idea of judging a wedding by whether or not one can get drunk on someone else'e dime....(even though personally I love champagne and have been known to overindulge at weddings myself).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I think that wedding sounds amazingly lovely. If there is a cultural issue with alcohol, there is absolutely no violation of etiquette in not providing it. I personally think there is no violation of etiquette in not providing alcohol in any situation if that is what the party throwers choose.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The idea of why a cash bar is a faux pas has been covered. I like to think of it like this: how many people would be offended if a meal at the reception was offered but guests were expected to pay if they wanted to eat?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: charlesbois

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  So, no alcohol is fine, but if you serve you shouldn't charge for it? Not sure I get that: if you don't have a problem with other people drinking as long as you don't pay for it (which was exactly the situation at my daughter's wedding) why would a cash bar be tacky, but no alcohol would be fine? Again, cultural differences are key, because I am sure the vast majority of guests at a Tunisian wedding understood that it was likely that alcohol would not be served. So, perhaps you are saying it is just expectations. Still, the tone of these responses leaves me to believe it is more than that (as in the poster who just about stated that nearly all bad weddings start with a cash bar. Really? Is the person being forced to order and pay for a drink?) (I do agree that not having any soda or water available would be problematic).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I would expect that if a meal were offered but people were expected to pay, that the cost and payment method would be communicated in advance. Many would consider it tacky to do that, (including me, under most circumstances), but it would also leave me the option of politely declining to attend. I don't think that guests at a wedding are 'owed' a meal for their attendance any more than I think they are 'owed' a drink.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    That poster was me, in the originating post of this thread. It has been my experience that cash bars are usually the start of a bad reception experience.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A wedding is no different from any other social event, in that it is undeniably rude to charge your guests for their attendance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: charlesbois

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Actually, I was also thinking of wattacettli,,,If there had been no cash bar, but only say, water, ice tea, coffee, finger sandwiches and white cake, would s/he have named it among the worst s/he had attended?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I think that part of my disagreement is that it appears to me that 'cash bar' is being used in some of these posts as a code word for 'cheap'. (Although granted, the meal you were served sounds bad enough that I would have wanted a drink to make it more bearable :-)). Still, my point is that I don't think there should be an expectation that any particular food or drink should be served (unless the invitation says something like 'wedding supper at 7 pm, perhaps), and I suspect that the vast majority of the anti-cash bar posters on this thread would have been just as unhappy if there had been no booze served at all. That certainly would have been the case for you, would it have not, if the food was indeed, as you describe, like 'prison food'? So, given that, why is it the cash bar that leads to the bad experience? Is it a code for 'cheap' or is the food just not as good to you unless you can drink (for free) while you eat it? Or perhaps the food actually was better than you describe but the cash bar left a bad taste in your mouth?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Assuming there were non alcoholic beverages available for you to drink, how in the heck is charging for alcohol charging 'for your attendance'? You don't need to drink at the cash bar, and it is perfectly fine to attend a wedding and not drink, so I think it is inappropriate and a poor analogy to compare a cash bar with an entrance fee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Your experience may simply be that weddings that you have been to with cash bars have had bad food as well. That simply has not been my experience.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I was at susancinsf's daughter's wedding, and I agree that it was a lovely event and one that we will all happily remember for a long time. (and there WERE some good stories from the bar :-). And I totally understand what she is saying about controlling costs somehow. I have been to a number of weddings, btw, where a toast or two of champagne were offered, and perhaps (pre-ordered) wine with dinner...but if folks wanted anything else (such as a cocktail) it was on a cash basis. This made total sense to me: the hosts were paying for what they could afford and those who wished to (over)indulge could pay for it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Frankly, the worst wedding reception I went to (and I'm pretty sure I've told this story before) had more to do with poor planning and yes, stupidity, than food or drink. The wedding was held in Marin County (Sausalito or Tiburon), CA in September. Few places in that part of the world are air-conditioned (or at least few were in the 1970s, when this debacle occurred), as it is almost never hot enough to need AC. Of course, the few days where it IS hot enough almost ALWAYS happen in September. It was 100 degrees F that day, literally. And the church was a small, historic church that was designed to seat 75 (but probably twice that attended). Parking, as is usual for that area, was in short supply, and many folks had to walk a fair way to get to the church and then to the reception a block or two away. But the worst part was when we arrived at the reception (at a fancy yacht club, also not air-conditioned). The bar tenders had been given very strict instructions not to serve ANYTHING (even soft drinks or water) until the wedding party arrived. Well, of course they were back at the church taking pictures (and that process was delayed as everyone whose makeup was totally ruined by sweat...). The ONLY water available in the place was in the sinks in the restroom (there was one water fountain there, but it was broken). Folks were BEGGING the bartenders for some cold water....no dice. Many folks left long before the wedding party even arrived...some were close to passing out. Finally the bride's uncle took matters into his own hands: he literally jumped over the bar (it was enclosed in such a way that you couldn't go around it), pushed aside the obstinate bartender, and started passing out cold sodas and beer. I think he may have avoided a riot by doing so...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And I don't think the refusal to pass out the cold drinks had anything to do with money. The bartenders had been instructed to hold the drinks until the wedding party arrived because apparently that was someone's idea of good etiquette...yet no one stopped to think of the ramifications on a hot day. And of course the number one rule of etiquette is to make your guests comfortable....but the bartenders were taking their instructions too seriously.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The rest of the dinner (for those who stayed) was fine and there didn't seem to be any cut corners. And I understand that the bride was mortified when she heard what had happened. So I'm sure she learned a good lesson to start out life: Never say never. She had a set idea of how she wanted things to go, she was adamant in her instructions to the wait staff, and she didn't stop to think about the consequences....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          janetf, my worst was a record heat wedding on a boat in NJ. I threw my outfit out and my husband threw out his clothes too t he next day. I've never been so uncomfortable. Not much the couple can do about nature but if better arrangements had been made about the food & beverage we would have laughed it all off by night time. Instead we fled the scene.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: charlesbois

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        <undeniably rude to charge your guests for their attendance>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        After reading all these posts I've come to one conclusion....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        If you can't afford to have a party, and treat your guests like you'd treat them in your home (would you charge them for the dinner you make?) then don't have the party.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It's as simple as that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          For latindancer re: if you can't afford it, don't have the party: assuming we are using the same definition of 'party', I really don't disagree with you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But alcohol is different somehow. If you can afford alcohol but don't want to ever buy it because it is against your religion to do so (yet you have no problem with other people buying their own as long as you don't pay for it) which is more gracious:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. have no alcohol at all?


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. give your guests the option of buying their own if they really must have a drink?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          and a related question: if you could afford good food and no booze, or so-so food food (finger sandwiches, say, to use an earlier example) and booze, would you care which was offered? Is one option more gracious than the other?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I honestly get the sense that, in contrast to your statement (which I agree with) that people should throw the party they can afford (which may not involve booze. Booze is expensive, and even the cheapest booze is more expensive than ice tea and water), that many of those opposed to the cash bar really don't think it IS a party unless there is alcohol!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            As I've stated in another post of mine...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I have been to many different types of weddings and celebrations over the years.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I've been to weddings at venues where absolutely NO alcohol was offered and everyone was fine with that and managed to have a great time because of the type of wedding it was..
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I've been to weddings at venues where full open hosted bars were available and people took full advantage and had a great time.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Guests adapt to whatever the bride and groom plan. I love experiencing different cultures, religions and traditions and I think everyone else does too. I go to a wedding, not to drink and party only, but to celebrate the union between two people. Ultimately, this is what the celebration is about.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            <many of those opposed to the cash bar really don't think it IS a party unless there is alcohol>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            That is not even remotely close to where I"m coming from. I'm opposed to a cash bar (even though I've never been to a venue like that) because I don't think guests should have to pay for anything.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I totally get why people think that folks shouldn't make anyone pay for anything. However, seems to me based on these posts that for some folks it is the absence of alcohol that really bugs them *more* than the cash bar, even if they say the hosts should serve what they can afford, and claim the cash bar is rude.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              latindancer: think about the language you used and what it says: for non alcohol: 'NO alcohol was offered and everyone was fine with that and managed to have a great time because of the type of wedding it was."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In other words: they MANAGED to have a great time because that is what they were given as an option


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "weddings where full open hosted bars were available and people took advantage and had a great time."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Nobody had to manage anything in that option, did they?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Be honest: don't you think most people who drink alcohol would rather NOT manage to do without, but instead would rather take advantage and drink to their hearts' content?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Given that reality, and IMHO it IS reality, at least in most cultures, (if the posts on this thread are any indication), while Miss Manners may be right that you shouldn't serve alcohol unless you can afford to pay for it (assuming that your religion and culture permits it), nonetheless, there is certainly a subtle, or in some cases, not so subtle pressure, to make alcohol available to keep the guests most happy. People expect to drink at a wedding in the United Stats in most sub-cultures. Under those circumstances, it is easy to see why a host with limited means or concerns about alcohol could respond to such mixed messages and circumstances by offering a cash bar (and NOTE: I am NOT talking about ungracious hosts who stick guests with the entire bill, I am talking about those hosts who, knowing their guests want to drink and knowing they can't afford it, offer their guests the convenient option of buying a drink as an alternative to asking them to have fun but do without.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                <seems to me based on these posts that for some folks it is the absence of alcohol that really bugs them *more* than the cash bar>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Unless I've missed posts that reflect your speculation I'm not getting that at all. I'm reading there are 2 camps...one for and one against and it has everything to do with whether they think it's proper to ask guests to pay. It has nothing to do with whether or not there's alcohol at the event.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                <don't you think most people who drink alcohol would rather NOT manage to do without, but instead would rather take advantage and drink to their hearts' content?>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Honestly, the people I know drink on occasion and when there's a celebration of any sort wine/alcohol is part of the celebration, but certainly not to access. For the most part, alcohol isn't the center of their universe and it it's there during a celebration they'll partake. If it's not there they're not going to complain and they'll celebrate along with whatever they're celebrating without the alcohol. The wedding I was referring to where there *was* no alcohol was in a part of this country that's 'dry'....illegal and therefore none. The bride/groom don't drink and everyone understood it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                <People expect to drink at a wedding in the United States in most sub-cultures>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Have you attended a wedding or celebration in Argentina/Brazil/Spain/Portugal/Italy/Ireland? The list is lengthy where guests automatically assume there will be liquor served. So much of it has to do with traditions and customs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It is definitely customary, at least in my traditions/ culture/religion, to have alcohol readily available for people to enjoy if they so please while celebrating many different important occasions whether it be holiday or wedding etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I've said it once and I'll say it again...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If a couple cannot afford to have an open (and nobody's saying it has to be stocked full of esoteric brands of liquor just something people can drink in the way of alcohol) then they should re-evaluate their priorities when it comes to hosting.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm completely against having guests pay.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  As someone also in the "cash bar is tacky" camp, let me explain why...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  For me, it has nothing to do with drinking, as I've said before, I enjoy a few glasses of wine, esp if there's dancing, etc, but I have been to very religious ceremonies where alcohol of any kind is strictly forbidden. Doesn't bother me any.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I know the reason people have cash bars is to save a little money on a very expensive day, but here is why it's tacky- the bride is wearing a dress that cost in the thousands, there's some sort of string quartet, they paid a lot for the venue, photographer, videographer, napkins, pictures frame favors with a professional portrait of the two of them, and yet they make their guests buy their own drinks? Tacky tacky tacky. They obviously can't afford the wedding they are throwing, and it's kind of gross to show off like that. All flash, no cash.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  That being said, one of the best weddings I have ever been to was held in a park, and the reception was at the couples friends house-nothing fancy, friends and family made most of the food, and wine/prosecco provided by Trader Joes. I'm sure that wedding cost next to nothing (as far as weddings go), it was virtually stress free for the couple, and everyone had a great time!!!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  There's a way to have many different kinds of weddings on many different budgets-but if you don't have the money in your bank account, it's rude to have a big fancy reception and make your guests pay for the part that you can't or don't want to!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I've never heard of a perfect wedding; one that went off w/out some hitch big or small. The picture you painted sounds ideal. And if all of the guests were comfortable, flexible and communication was handled well-who's to judge. Not I.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    As for myself, I don't really care if there is alcohol at any function and I love a good glass of wine or a cocktail myself. What I defer to is the couple-not the parents or relatives but the bride & groom. If they are happy with their wedding then rest assured I'm having a good time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My wedding was as close to perfect as I could imagine. This is probably because I eloped.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The food was delicious, but that is because my husband and I rented a cabin and cooked everything ourselves. When it is just two, you can afford steak and scallops and nice wine with no problem. I baked us a wedding cheesecake.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The only thing that went wrong was that I fell and broke my foot three days before the wedding. But the officiant and the photographer were really helpful, and the percoset probably helped to. (Yes, we did get at least one picture with the crutches.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jw615

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        That sounds so beautiful, crutches & all! Great story to tell the next jw generation! Just the visual of you baking a wedding cheesecake in a cabin makes me smile.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I've encouraged all four of my adult children to elope. We'll throw any party they wish...after.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jw615

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I love that story.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I like that you toted the wedding cheesecake with you. A true Chowhound!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Thanks. The cabin was actually better than our house. One room cabin with not a whole lot of furniture is SO much easier to navigate on crutches.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            We did have a very informal family get together to celebrate our one year anniversary, and I made the same cheesecake recipe to share with all of them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Something I meant to add: I have been to a number of Hindu weddings, as my husband is from India. Alcohol is rarely served at those events, but I would certainly not call them "cheap" by any stretch of the imagination (and the food is usually quite good:-). And when I think of that dreadfully hot hour and a half (yes, 90 minutes at 100 degrees with not even cold water available!) we spent at the Yacht Club that day, I compare it with my nephew's wedding. It was a HUGE affair; I would guess there were close to 1000 people present. It was held in a huge masonic temple in San Jose, probably the only place in the area large enough to hold such a crowd. And I think it was also 100 degrees that day. And yes, it was hot inside. And the Hindu ceremony is long. So imagine my surprise and delight when there was a break in the action and murmurs from the audience (I was onstage as part of the wedding party; sweating under photographic lights and wearing a heavy embroidered sari).....a number of waiters were walking up and down the aisles of the audience, passing out some of those little ice cream cup sundaes to all...and after the audience was served THEN they came onstage and gave one to each of us there....now THAT was a welcome gesture of sweetness!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            That's incredible attention to detail, nice! So thoughtful.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I can't imagine keeping 1,000 guests comfortable for a private wedding. Let alone, serving that many.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Now that is a lovely way to smooth over a hot and long service!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I attended a Hindu wedding several years ago - they had a small bar with mango lassi for guests to enjoy during the ceremony. It was a very nice touch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The food for cocktail and dinner was also quite good. The bride was a co-worker with no family living nearby, so she invited me to go to several restaurants as she narrowed the catering options - so much fun!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I posted above about how I think a lot of the connection between "cash bar" and "bad reception" is that it can leave things being less festive. Though I've never been to a wedding in Tunisia - I have been to other weddings in the Middle East, where even if the reception is Christian alcohol is less prominent.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              That being said, as alcohol is not as expected or as much of a center piece - there's no damper on the festivities. I've been to a few weddings/celebrations were a cash bar is seen as a kindness - because it allows religious relatives to operate under the auspices of "no alcohol was served at the wedding", but for drinking guests to still imbibe. In one case, the "cash bar" was told to have a few bottles available for free shots early in the evening but it was all done in a way to seem as though the hosts hadn't purchased alcohol.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I think all of the complaints related to cash bars largely have to do with expectations. Typically, cash bars aren't announced on the invitation and cash bars don't often accept credit cards. So there's that moment of having to figure out last minute how much cash you have, can you borrow some, is there an atm near by, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                <seems that you thought you had an opportunity to take advantage of free wine and food yourself>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This was a wedding reception held in a French restaurant in a very high profile vineyard. The price wasn't really anything out of the ordinary, actually. The wine wasn't ordered by me. The only thing I ordered was food off the menu.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If I were to calculate (which I never have) the price per person of liquor at some of the parties I've thrown I'd, most likely, be shocked. Throw a party, whether it be wedding or bar mitzvah or birthday and the liquor (in my case) is going to be flowing all day/night long...I will pay, my guests will drink whatever/however/how much they want and they will never lift a finger to do anything. Including pay for any of it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The wedding I attended could have easily been held in a run-down restaurant off the freeway. Instead, the bride and groom wanted to take their guests to the most expensive restaurant they could find, have us all believe it was on their dime because that's what happens when you're invited to a wedding and reception, and they stuck us all with the bill.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                <personally really hate the idea of judging a wedding by whether or not one can get drunk on someone else's dime>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If I have 2 or 3 open bars at a party, I'm hosting, I fully expect people to indulge. It's a party and I want people to enjoy themselves and have everything at their disposal in order to make them feel comfortable. If I can't afford to do it then I won't host it. For those who choose to drink I'm hosting and I'm paying. If you come to my home for a dinner party and there're bottles of champagne & wine on the table I don't expect you to ask if you can drink it. It's there just like the food I'm serving.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "Throw a party, whether it be wedding or bar mitzvah or birthday and the liquor (in my case) is going to be flowing all day/night long...I will pay, my guests will drink whatever/however/how much they want and they will never lift a finger to do anything. Including pay for any of it."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Totally agree Latindancer! Here's to good times had by all!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I think she got so caught up in his 'importance' (and therefore her importance) she just went along with the ride and simply felt justified in messing (or screwing) with her guests. None of us wanted to believe she'd do something like that.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It was if we should have felt honored to partake in such an affair and pay for it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. My worst was one of my husbands best friends. It was in Pittsburg and after the ceremony the wedding party, of which my husband was one, and the parents traveled by river boat to the reception after the photos. This included a sumptuous service of hot and cold apps and full service (free) bar. We are talking shrimp cocktail, oysters, mini beef Wellingtons, mixed drinks, martinis, the works.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In the mean time the rest of us had to find our way to the reception to wait around for 2+ hours for the wedding party to arrive. We were treated to a cash bar (the Almadan wine and IC light beer were free) and a small table of cheese and crackers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I was placed in the back of the room with other wedding party spouses and plus ones. The wedding photographer stopped the first dance, the cutting of the cake and garter throwing for do-overs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The wedding party was served surf and turf. The rest of we're served some kind of pasta with chicken. The wedding party had bottles of wine on their tables while the rest us now had access to a fully cash bar so not even the bad wine and beer were free.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I had successfully blocked this memory until now. Thanks! :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A. Mazing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I had never heard of this Dining by Class at weddings (surf & turf v. pasta & chicken; full dinner v. dessert only) before reading this thread. God, America is tacky when it comes to weddings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm going to one in two weeks. I can't imagine the people throwing it have this little class, but after reading this thread, I'm going to be very observant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I had to check a box for what we wanted for dinner. I chose a ratatouille in puff pastry and my plus one is having chicken. The cake is chocolate and peanut butter--his favorite. We don't drink, so if there is a cash bar, it won't be an issue for us.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for some of these things. It'll be it my sociology project for the year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I agree that the divided service is just plain rude. And separate treatment for two spouses is beyond rude. I am guessing that they wanted to have something special for the wedding party, which is understandable, but the approach was all wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              At my husband's nephew's wedding, the custom in the congregation where they chose to marry was to invite all members of the church to the reception. So, they had the reception in the basement right after the ceremony, with white cake, punch (no alcohol at all), and the church ladies brought some great dishes for lunch, potluck style. There was plenty of food and it was all great. I'd say there were about 125 people present, the church basement was packed (with church members, friends and family). My sister in law (MOG) decorated the church herself and the church members decorated the basement and set the tables with homemade centerpieces and favors. It all worked.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Later that night, close friends and family (Perhaps 25 of us) were invited to a wedding dinner at a nearby hotel. In addition to a great surf and turf (this was in Maine in lobster season, so the surf was broiled lobster; the steak was filet) there was an open bar and wine with each course. This was one of my favorite weddings and is a great approach when one wants to invite a lot of folks and can't afford to go all out but wants to treat special friends and family.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Or just chose a limited venue and keep it small to begin with: when I got married hubby and I wanted to keep the wedding VERY small, as there were some members of his family we did *not* want to invite. Solution: we decided to get married on a small boat. Coast guard regulations restricted the number of passengers enough that we could each only invite two people (my two kids from marriage number one, his best friend who conveniently is a musician and provided the music, and best friend's spouse.) We took our four guests, the minister and the boat crew out to dinner afterwards. Oh yeah, the wedding was in Hawaii (off the coast, technically) and we paid to get our guests there, airfare and all, and put them up in a condo with us for five days, as well as paying for dinner. Then we kicked them out of the condo and told them to go home so we could be alone for our honeymoon. It was perfect :-))